Hamilton takes positives from difficult season

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton will head into the 2010 Formula One season wiser and stronger following a dramatic year for the outgoing world champion.

It was a year that began in shocking circumstances as Hamilton was ensnared in the 'liegate' controversy, which resulted in him making a humble apology for his actions in Australia.

There followed a tortuous few months as he was forced to fight at the back of the grid in an uncompetitive McLaren as the team were caught short by the sport's sweeping rule changes.

McLaren eventually managed to get their act together and provide the 24-year-old with a car that not only returned to the front but was able to take the chequered flag in Hungary and Singapore.

Remarkably, over the final eight races, Hamilton claimed 40 points, more than any other driver, and yet he failed to finish in three of those.

That included yesterday's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when a brake issue robbed him of potentially the win and certainly a podium.

Hamilton, though, can now look back on a rollercoaster 2009 he feels will only help him in next season's quest to regain the world title.

"It's been a long, hard year, full of lots of great lessons, not just for me, but also for the team," reflected Hamilton.

"We're a lot wiser and, as a man, I've learned a lot about myself. I think I've grown, I'm a lot more mature in the decisions I take.

"As a driver, I've fought from the back, learned how to work with the team, how to push them forward in a productive way, and how to lift them, to keep them going.

"It's easy to do it when you're at the front all the time but, when you're at the back, it's another experience.

"Every single experience you have, and mostly the bad experiences, they are the character-building ones.

"It's about how you overcome something, rise above it and bounce back from it, such as like that at the beginning of the year.

"I feel fine about it now. It was one of those things in life.

"You can't change the past but what you do in your life makes you who you are. And, if you learn from it, it makes you stronger.

"Then, as your life goes on, you achieve more as a result of building on what's gone before.

"Looking back on it, for sure, you wish you'd done things a little different but it's water under the bridge.

"It was a huge lesson learned and maybe the biggest lesson I've learned."

It is one Hamilton insists he has already applied over the year and will continue to apply going forward into next season.

"It's about how you maintain yourself," added Hamilton.

"After this long break we now face, when you get back in the car it's going to be hard work.

"You miss racing for a while and you want to get back into again, so it's just making sure we're ready for the first race.

"I'm pushing my team harder than they've ever been pushed, so they are all on the edge.

"In fact, we're all pushing each other to make sure we leave no stone unturned because we want to arrive in Bahrain (in mid-March) with a chance of winning the race.

"I know we've learned so much from the experiences of this year and hopefully they won't happen again."

The fact McLaren turned their season around is why Hamilton can now look back on it with a smile and claim it to be "fantastic" and "great".

In comparison to the unusually surly, quiet Hamilton witnessed at the start of the year - with justification given the circumstances - the Briton yesterday left the Yas Marina circuit with a smile on his face.

"It's been a real rollercoaster ride of a season and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though we had half a year which was not a great feeling for us as a team," assessed Hamilton.

"But I feel my relationship with every individual in my team grew and we grew better and stronger as a team, and as a driver I feel very much stronger.

"So I don't feel I've come out of it any worse at least. I'm happy, especially with how the second half of the season went.

"I was back at the front and had a couple of wins, which I never expected, and I'm loving the sport as much as I ever have."