Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he looks forward to the moments when he can step out of the limelight cast upon him by his F1 success.

Speaking in an interview with Sir David Frost, to be screened on Al Jazeera English today (Friday 16 August), Hamilton admitted that he had not been prepared for the sudden interest in him that was created by his immediate success in the top flight, particularly after he fought for the world championship in his debut year and claimed it in his second.

"My life just completely turned, my world turned upside down," he explained, "People were, all of a sudden, interested in me, wanting to spend time with me. People wanted photos, people wanted my autograph...."

And it wasn't only the fans chasing him, as Hamilton found the seamier side of the media also taking a greater interest.

"It's definitely not exhilarating," he insisted, responding to Frost's question about paparazzi intrusion, "It's definitely a pain in the backside sometimes.

"It's cool in one sense for people to be interested in what you're doing but then, of course, there's two sides of it. I'm very lucky. I try and keep as much of a low profile as I can. I definitely slip up every now and then, but I try and keep as much of a low profile as possible because I'm constantly in the limelight. I'm in the public's eye all the time through the racing, so it's nice to be able to step away from it and live kind of a normal life every now and then."

Despite his desire for privacy - particularly given the wider interest in his personal life courtesy of his on-off relationship with Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger - Hamilton acknowledges the importance of true race fans.

"They make the atmosphere," he explained, "The fans that we have make a big difference, particularly when you're travelling round the world and you see people from the UK who have travelled to Japan or Korea or Brazil or somewhere like that. It's great to have that support and, you know, they spur you on, they keep you going. There's so much positive energy that comes from the fans and they help you keep that motivation."

The F1 fanbase has not always been behind Hamilton, however, although he admits that his run-ins with the Spanish crowd in the wake of a turbulent season as team-mate to Fernando Alonso at McLaren appear to have blown over.

"I think I've been fortunate, as I haven't had a huge amount [of racism] in my racing career," he accepted, "I think there was some in my early days of karting - there was one time in Portugal when I was racing go-karts when I was about 15 or so, and then, when I got to F1 - and particularly when I got to Spain - I had some troubles there, but generally, since I've been back to Spain every year, it seems to get a lot better there.

"The support that I have is getting better and better and I think that it's partly to do with how positive Fernando has been about me. People are hopefully getting to see a different side of me. The good thing is that people are changing and the world is changing so, fortunately, I haven't had any problems for some years now."

For all the alleged acrimony surrounding them during Hamilton's 2007 debut season, a definite respect has grown between the Briton and Alonso in the years since.

"He's he seems to be the quickest driver in my books," Hamilton said of the Spaniard, "He has been very [generous in what he has said too] and I think we've both grown quite a lot over the last few years, particularly since we were team-mates. That respect for one another has just grown since then."

The Frost Interview airs at 9pm tonight (Friday 16 August) on Al Jazeera English (Sky 514, Virgin 622, Freesat 203)


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