Anthony Hamilton has conceded that the very public estrangement from his son Lewis this time last year could potentially have been avoided had he only relinquished his managerial role after the McLaren-Mercedes star clinched the F1 World Championship at the end of 2008, confessing that he 'stayed a year too long'.

Just over twelve months ago, it was confirmed that the nigh-on 20-year father-son managerial arrangement between the Hamiltons had come to an end, and shortly afterwards there came the over-hyped Melbourne 'hooning' incident.

No more under the watchful eye of dad, Lewis, said observers, had gone off the rails, unleashed the rebellious streak that had been pent up inside of him since being signed up by McLaren at such a young age and in effect being denied the traditional teenage rites of passage and youthful misdemeanours through his dedication to his sport and his burning ambition to make a success out of it.

A month later and belying the initial fa?ade that it had been an 'amicable' divorce, he acknowledged that it was 'not all smiles and happiness' between the pair, with the revelation that not only was Anthony no longer the omnipresent factor at grands prix that he had been throughout 2007 and 2008, but indeed that the pair barely even spoke to one another anymore as the strain inevitably told.

Even in the latter stages of last year, Hamilton Jnr alluded to off-track 'distractions' that had affected his title bid, but the two men are now increasingly getting back on good terms, and if their relationship is still not completely healed, it is not far off. Anthony will be much more visible at F1 races again this season in his role as manager to Force India rookie Paul di Resta - and in his first interview since the separation, he spoke to The Daily Telegraph about what has been a painful but ultimately cathartic period in both his and his son's lives.

"The desire to go our separate ways was mutual," he insists, now more chilled-out since letting go and moving on. "We had discussed it for ages. It just didn't happen quite the way I would have wanted. It was tough [in 2010]; it was always going to be tough. It had to happen at some point. The reality is, I wanted my life back. I had spent nearly 18 years trying to make sure that Lewis didn't lose his big opportunity.

"I was just like any other parent, really - I wanted the best for my son. Did I know best? Not always, but I'd like to think that I knew best most of the time - and if I didn't know something, I would learn. I would ask - to make sure Lewis was successful, to make sure people who believed in him and us were proud.

"I stayed a year too long - that was my biggest mistake. I knew it had got to the point where he had his life the way he wanted it - the world title, his own girlfriend, his own money. The problem was, the 2009 car was no good. I didn't want to leave when things were going badly. I did the dad thing.

"[The 'hooning'] incident was part of growing up. It was a mistake, but who hasn't made mistakes? You must remember, together we had achieved our dream - he was world champion, he had money in the bank. He would never be like me. That was the objective, but in reaching it, he had never had the opportunity to do all the ordinary things a teenager does. We're all still learning. I certainly learned a lot last year. What I'm trying to say is that when 2010 happened it was a good thing for both of us. I'm trying to take life a little easier now."

Anthony went on to discuss two other topics that generated a great deal of newspaper headlines. Firstly, his son's relationship with Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger - of which he was rumoured not to approve, with some musing that it was one of the catalysts for the split - and secondly, the 26-year-old's recent signing with Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment management company.

Insisting that 'Nicole is a really, really great girl' and 'good for him' and that the separation was prompted rather by 'a combination of factors of which that long-distance relationship was one', Hamilton Snr can belatedly accept and fully respect that 'again, that was about growing up, about Lewis making his own decisions'.

Now, he confirms, 'I don't pry into his private life', simply describing Lewis as 'one of the greatest sons a parent could ever ask for' - and he assures that far from allowing himself to be seduced by Hollywood fame, the 14-time grand prix-winner will 'enjoy his success...but responsibly'.

"There was always a deep love between us," he concludes. "There was just a longing for him to do his own thing and for me to do my own thing. We've spent a lot of time together lately, but the ground rules are different now. He'll call and ask me for advice, which to a degree has always been my role as a father. The unfortunate thing is that before I had control, too, and it's the control really that I didn't like at the time - but I'm still Lewis' dad, and hopefully his closest aide. And if he ever wants anything, he only has to call."

Those sentiments are palpably shared by his son, who was spotted spending time with his father over the F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne - clearly appreciating the opportunity to bond, only this time pressure-free.

"This weekend has been great," Lewis enthused, according to The Guardian. "I don't know whether you saw, [but] me and my dad spent a lot of time together. I asked him if he would like to be on the grid with me, and he said 'I would love to do that'. It just felt fantastic this weekend.

"I felt the support that my dad gave me - it was the same as he has always given me, but without the stress. I said to him, 'I know you have to go down the other end of the grid' and he said, 'No, Paul understands that I want to be up this end as well'.

"My dad was just there as my dad. He has always given me immense support, but I think it was support mixed with some stress. This time it was just, 'I'm so proud to see you out there' and it was just fantastic, really, really great. Things are pretty good - great times, and they can only get better."

There will be another chance for the pair to bond at Brands Hatch this weekend, where Lewis' brother Nick - who suffers from cerebral palsy - will make his own racing debut at the age of 19 in the Renault Clio Cup UK, on the support package for the British Touring Car Championship. Anthony describes his younger son as 'an inspirational story, not just for disabled people but for anyone with a dream'.

"Me and my dad will be there," Lewis affirmed. "I can't miss my brother's first race! It's okay - I can sleep on the flight; I can still stay in this time zone. I'll just head back to see his qualifying and race and then pop back out. It's cool.

"Me and my brother are close. I mean, everyone has their situations in life, but it has been tough for him. I can understand what he has been through because I am the closest person to him, but even I cannot comprehend what it must have been like to have the difficulties he has had. And now he gets to have the opportunity to live the dream himself."



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