He is seemingly either permanently on the defensive or on the offensive right now against the backdrop of fevered speculation surrounding his future, and Lewis Hamilton has been quick to defend his formative career over this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, dismissing claims that he was 'groomed' for F1 as 'absolute rubbish' and insisting he 'worked his backside off' to get to where he is today.

At the age of just ten, Hamilton approached then McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony in London and told him: "I want to race for you one day." Three years later, the Briton was signed up to the joint McLaren and Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme - and the rest, as they say, is history.

But as to suggestions that he had it easy on his way to the top, the 2008 F1 World Champion is blunt in his rebuttal.

"People always said I was the best-prepared driver ever as I was groomed and all that crap," the 26-year-old is quoted as having said by The Guardian. "It's absolute rubbish. I was given an opportunity in the different categories, and I had to win in those categories before I moved on.

"I had to win Formula Renault, had to win F3, had to win GP2 to get my seat. I had to work bloody hard, and I trained myself all of those years. I had no-one groom me to be as fit as I was or mentally focussed. I never had a driver coach, and it was at the end of 2006 they said 'we are going to give you the opportunity to drive'.

"I tested and I worked my backside off to be as fit as I could be. I took a steering wheel home and studied every night the manual - I studied so hard, harder than I ever did at school. I had the opportunity to use the tools, and I am using them to the maximum. I disagree when people say I was being groomed. I worked my backside off, plus I had good people behind me plus my team and my family."

Having made it to the pinnacle of the sport in 2007, Hamilton went on to stun observers - not to mention team-mate Fernando Alonso - by coming within a whisker of lifting the drivers' crown in his maiden campaign in F1, defeating a double world champion in equal machinery along the way. It was, beyond doubt, the most remarkable rookie season ever witnessed.

"I don't know now how I did it," confessed the 14-time grand prix-winner. "[I] had a lot of consecutive podiums. When I think about it now I think, bloody hell! I don't know how I was able to produce those..."

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