Lewis Hamilton may have no chance now of successfully defending his hard-fought 2008 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship crown in 2009, but the McLaren-Mercedes star has revealed that even on his lowest of days, he still feels like pushing for all he is worth.

Indeed, there have been arguably more bad days than good this year for the youngest-ever title-winner in F1's official 59-year history, with an aerodynamically-underperforming car in McLaren's MP4-24 that proved to be some way off the pace throughout the first half of the season - and the embarrassment of the Melbourne 'lies' controversy that Hamilton admitted at the time had almost driven him out of the sport altogether.

Of late, however, the ten-time grand prix-winner has resumed his more accustomed position towards the sharp end of proceedings - regaining the top step of the podium in Hungary and leading in Valencia before ultimately being forced to accept the runner-up spot to Brawn GP rival Rubens Barrichello. The good times, he reflects, more than make up for the bad.

"There have been many ups-and-downs, and for sure every now and then we have our doubts," Hamilton mused, speaking during an exclusive pre-Singapore Grand Prix Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-in session, "but the great thing about being a part of such a large team is that whenever you are in doubt, there's someone right by your side who carries you and picks you up. I would say in terms of my family team too, my dad has a huge influence, as do my brother, my mother - if I have any doubts or vice-versa, we're there for each other, and that's what being part of a team is all about.

"In whatever I've done - especially when it's competing - I've just always had something inside me that makes me want to win and wills me to keep going. I think it's just part of my character and part of who I am. We can't win the world championship [this season] - we can only win races and get pole positions and fastest laps now - but I think it's just knowing that when you've worked so hard for something, at the end if you do put the effort in victory can be the most satisfying feeling.

"Even if you don't win but you still know that you gave it your all, it's such a great feeling. That's really what keeps me going. I generally don't have any days where I feel I don't want to push or I don't want to keep going."

Advising countryman Jenson Button - who has usurped Hamilton as Britain's chief challenger for glory in 2009 - not to pay any attention to what is written or reported in the media and merely to focus on the job in-hand, the Stevenage-born ace added that he had similarly paid little heed to the Renault 'Singapore-gate' scandal that has rocked the F1 world in recent weeks...one that has left his former GP2 Series title rival Nelsinho Piquet fighting for his career.

"I've really not been focussing on it," he urged. "I've been just really preparing myself for focussing on my job. I've got quite a big job to do with the team to prepare next year's car and win the world championship, and just try to score some more points in the last four races [of 2009]. If I'm honest, I haven't been reading about this; I haven't followed it closely or kept up-to-date with it.

"It's for Renault and for [Piquet] and his family to deal with. He's a good driver and he's had a great career, and for sure there will be opportunities for him in the future, so I can only wish him the best. I've never been through what he's going through, but he's still very young and he'll take it I'm sure in his stride."

As to the future, Hamilton confessed that the prospect of as many as 26 or even 28 cars in the field next year is an 'exciting' one - "I grew up following Formula 1 and there were always only really 21 or 22 cars on the grid," he reveals - and confirmed that he is all in favour of adding more grands prix to the schedule, contending that 'as racing drivers, we love going to different countries and different cities and racing at all these different circuits they put us on...so the more the merrier'.

Looking back over the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last time out, finally, the 24-year-old confessed that the two-stop strategy on which he and McLaren had gambled had failed to pay off, as he threw his car off the road on the final lap whilst chasing Jenson Button's second place - but in any case, he reasoned, the Brawn GP duo had simply been just too fast.

"We do generally discuss [the strategy] together," he explained, "but in actual fact it is decided by the team. Sometimes I might not even be at the meeting, and I'm told before qualifying that I'm going to lap 15 or whatever lap it is. We've got a great bunch of guys who are very, very intelligent and who understand all the statistics, so we have to rely on them and I do - they may not always get it right, but who does? Generally, they've always done a great job there, so I put great trust and belief in them - they are the smart ones and they have all the information.

"I don't think at Monza I was on the right strategy, but it was how it was and we'll try and learn from that. My personal feeling was that if other people were going for a one-stop then it was probably the fastest route and we should be on that, but we have to take lots of things into account - the two-stop enabled me to be on pole position, and I was then able to push out in the clear.

"The guys explained to me why I was on a two-stop and it seemed reasonable, so that's why we stuck with it. I think if things had been slightly different and the Brawns hadn't been so quick then we would have been in a great position, but they were dominant that weekend - they were very, very quick."