Lewis Hamilton has confessed that his performances in F1 2011 are not 'at their best' right now, but he insists that his attentions are firmly fixed on taking his grand prix career to the peak of its powers – and not all the celebrity trappings that accompany top flight success.
Hamilton has been accused on occasion of finding his focus swayed by off-track diversions, with a pop star girlfriend in Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, 'A-list' friends including rapper P Diddy and music producer Pharrell Williams, regular appearances at star-studded award ceremonies and parties and a contract with a talent management company founded by a man most famous for working with the likes of the Spice Girls and S Club 7 – and whose only previous involvement in F1 was with the disastrous Honda Racing 'Earth Car' concept in 2007.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the 'playboy' tag attached to current team-mate Jenson Button during the early stages of his own F1 career, and a very different existence to that of, say, defending world champion Sebastian Vettel, a man much more grounded and with far simpler, less ostentatious tastes.
The McLaren-Mercedes ace's most recent high-profile date was on Jonathan Ross' new ITV chat show last weekend, and he concedes that whilst he is 'not searching' for the showbiz scene, he does 'still love doing that stuff' – even if he is adamant that honing his on-track skills will always take precedence over a red carpet lifestyle that some contend has been to blame for his patchy form at times this season.
“It's still awesome when you hang around with people like that,” Hamilton told Press Association Sport
. “I still feel exactly the same way about them, the way I did before I met them, even though I know them now. I'm still a little starstruck, in admiration. I still see them on television, exactly as I did then – but it's strange when you look at your 'phone and think, 'I can call that guy'.
“People look from the outside and say, 'I would give anything to be in his position'. That is absolutely right, because I would give anything to be in my position as well, but it doesn't matter how much money you have – you can't have everything, and I do sometimes miss some small moments of my past. They're not big enough to want to go back completely, but it's nice to be able to taste them now and again. It's a different part of reality, a different life.
“There will be more things in the future, but at the moment there are more important things to do. That is somehow to get this F1 career at its peak, because I don't feel it's at its highest. I don't feel the performances are at their best, and that's what I am really trying to focus on most of all.”
Having hit out at the weight of sponsorship obligations upon him in the build-up to his home race at Silverstone back in July – one that did not elicit a vintage performance from the 2008 F1 World Champion – Hamilton subsequently made no secret of the fact that he believed his sublime victory at the Nürburgring a fortnight later, one of the very finest of his career to-date, was aided in large part by having been free of distractions and able to concentrate wholly on relaxing and preparing himself for the race weekend.
Entirely indicative of his rollercoaster 2011 campaign, however, Spa-Francorchamps a week-and-a-half ago resulted in yet another collision and accident-induced DNF – this time coming together with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, with Hamilton ultimately acknowledging that contrary to his initial assertion, he was in fact to blame.