Hamilton 'at peace' behind the wheel

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton has revealed he is "most at peace" inside the cockpit of his McLaren.

Following what was initially a troubled 2009 for Hamilton and his team, the 25-year-old is relishing the forthcoming new season.

After the bitterness of the 'liegate' fiasco and McLaren's wretched early-season form, Hamilton was a man and driver far from at ease.

Yet after a torrid few months, Hamilton and the team turned their year on its head, ending the season on a high with two wins and three other podiums, even if ultimately relinquishing the title he won in 2008 to new team-mate Jenson Button.

Hamilton, though, is now ready for the fight ahead, believing he is in his best shape for many years.

"Throughout the season I grew a lot as an individual. I made some mistakes, but I grew from those, learned a huge amount," assessed Hamilton.

"I feel I'm a little less immature, a bit wiser and I hope that will reflect on my approach and performance this year.

"I hope it will help me in my decision-making process and all that stuff in the future.

"Physically, I feel I'm in the best shape I've been in for a long time.

"Mentally, as a driver and as a person, all round, I definitely am in a better position."

Despite the break-up of his two-year relationship to Pussycat Dolls' singer Nicole Scherzinger that was confirmed yesterday, Hamilton's love of Formula One remains undiminished.

"The fact is I've always loved Formula One, but more than that I've always loved cars and being in the car," added Hamilton.

"So anything could happen, but if there's one place I could go to, it would be the car where you're able to switch off and be on your own.

"It's the one place you can definitely feel as if in you're in control. I'm most at peace.

"I've always loved the sport, always loved competing, and I would say my love and passion for the sport has never really changed.

"I'm more than happy to be here now, very thankful I'm here today and grateful I'm in a great team with a great team-mate, and looking forward to 2010."

It is a year Hamilton feels may be "the most exciting Formula One season yet" given his partnership with Button and return of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher after three years in retirement.

"I kind of had a feeling he (Schumacher) would come back, and it's incredible for the sport," remarked Hamilton.

"Having Michael back, the seven-time world champion, is exciting for all us drivers because what he's achieved is incredible. We're honoured.

"We're all just proud to be on the same track as him, but of course we'll all want to beat him.

"As for Jenson, I see it (his arrival) as a real positive for the team. I'm very excited to get to the first test and have his input into our team."