Lewis Hamilton has played down claims that he is arrogant, despite suggestions that his over-confidence is leading to another tight F1 world title battle.
The Briton went into last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix with the chance to put the issue almost beyond doubt, if not secure the crown itself, but an impetuous move at the first corner, and an ensuing clash with title rival Felipe Massa on lap two, left his race in tatters. Unable to score after being penalised for the first lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton eventually trailed in twelfth while Massa scooped up a couple of points after also having to take a drive-thru'.
The result caused flashbacks to 2007 when, as a rookie, Hamilton suffered a rash of errors - both personal and by the McLaren team - that saw him surrender a 17-point advantage over Raikkonen in the last two races. He currently holds a reduced five-point cushion over Massa with races in China and Brazil to come, but his move at turn one only seemed to underline the criticism levelled at him by rivals in recent weeks.
Robert Kubica, who retains a slim chance of taking the title from twelve points adrift, opened the Fuji weekend by claiming that Hamilton was too 'self-assured', causing him to make too many risky moves.
“I would never say I was better than anyone else," Hamilton insisted on his personal website, "But I am an F1 driver and all of us have to believe in ourselves to get to where we are.
"You have to have that belief to go out and win, and that's what helps you strive for better performance and to achieve more in your life. I look at the other drivers and I want to beat them - [but] I would never say 'I'm better than you'. I just think that all these guys are the best and, to be the best, I have to beat them. That's how every racing driver sees things.”
Unlikely to get any respite from the media between the Japanese GP and this weekend's outing in Shanghai, Hamilton admits that he sometimes finds the scrutiny of his life – both on-and-off the track – hard to cope with, especially when it leads to the impression that he is something he isn't.
“For sure, it's not easy to always say or do the right thing and, when you're constantly being scrutinised, it can be particularly difficult," he noted, "Recently, there have been lots of different quotes attributed to me; sometimes I've said things that have either come out the wrong way or been taken out of context so people get a different feeling of what I've said when I haven't expressed myself correctly.
"Of course, you do get people watching you all the time, so you have to be careful about what you say or what you do. I don't see myself as a celebrity, I feel I'm the same guy I was before I got to F1 – just more measured, maybe. I'm only human and, every now and then, people make mistakes. Communication is so important in life and some of the things I've said were not meant to harm anyone.”
Having avoided commenting on the problems he found in Japan, Hamilton insisted that he remained confident that he can take out the world title over the remaining two rounds.
“I'm optimistic about the future," he claimed, "I think we will be quite strong in China this weekend, and closer to Ferrari than we were last year. The same goes for Brazil, so these next two races could show the fans some of the closest racing of the season.”