Lewis Hamilton has dismissed McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh's claim that his form has been affected by that of team-mate Jenson Button, admitting instead that he had been battling demons for a couple of years.
The 2008 world champion has had a torrid time this season, taking just two wins in the face of Red Bull domination, questionable passing moves, repeated trips to the stewards' office and an ongoing feud with Felipe Massa. Pole position in Korea - the only one not taken by RBR this season - was greeted with little in the way of celebration, and it later transpired that Hamilton was in the midst of breaking up with long-time girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger. Add to that a change of management at the start of the season and then the pace of team-mate Button, and the 26-year old has had a lot to contend with. Only now, however, has he revealed how long he has had other things on his mind.
"My issues have been much, much bigger than that - more personal," Hamilton admitted candidly on the eve of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend, "There's not a lot of people that really understand the issues that I've had this year, and the problems that I've been going through, which I've been going through for the last two years. I just can't comment on them because it's not really the place or time to do so."
While dismissing Whitmarsh's claims about the pressure Button's form is putting him under, Hamilton conceded that his countryman was having a fine season, but pointed to his personal situation to highlight the real differences between them.
"Jenson's done a great job to get things in the right place," he pointed out, inadvertently highlighting some of the questions that have been raised about his own support system, "He's got his dad there at every single race, he's got his management there, he's got his friends, he's got his girlfriend there all the time. He's in a really, really happy [place]. He's got a great bubble around him, which he's very happy with, and, with that, he's able to just go out and perform without any worries on his mind.
"He's in a much stronger position than me, so I wouldn't expect anything less than the results he's been getting. But that's not affecting the way I'm
performing. I've just been a bit unfortunate. I lost that bubble, I don't have that around me at the moment. It's nothing to do with being single or not being single. When I was in my relationship, she was probably the most positive thing in my life - and maybe that [feeling] needs to be back there."
Dismissing suggestions that he might turn to psychology for help, Hamilton admitted that he needed to rediscover the support network that helped carry him to the world title three years ago, even it means that he needs to indulge in a little bridge-building along the way.
"It is a priority for me to create that atmosphere around myself because it's a happy bubble where you are happy with your friends and family and the people you love most," he noted, "[The issues] affect everything you do, the things you say, the way you act, the groove you get into. Every time I arrive [at a race], I feel positive but, at some races, I'm less positive, less happy, so that's something I'm definitely going to try and correct before next winter starts. It's not an excuse - it's just the way things have gone. I feel quite confident that I know the right direction for next year and how I can get things better - it's just about doing it."