Lewis Hamilton says last year's "lie-gate" scandal that tarnished his reputation has made him a stronger person. As he prepares for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, the second round of the season, the 2008 world champion looked back at the incident from the previous year's race in Melbourne that saw him caught lying to stewards and disqualified from the race and said: "I don't look at last year's experience as a bad one."
After starting last on the Melbourne grid in a woeful McLaren-Mercedes, Hamilton, 25, drove brilliantly to finish fourth in the first race of his world championship title defence. Immediately after the race Hamilton was promoted to third after Jarno Trulli, then with Toyota, was penalised for passing him under the safety car. However, Hamilton was ultimately disqualified after the stewards decided he and McLaren had provided misleading evidence relating to the incident over the fact he had slowed to let the Toyota past, but then had denied he had done so to the stewards.
McLaren's sporting director David Ryan was fired over the incident and a few days later Hamilton humbly apologised. He has since revealed the affair led to him considering his future in the sport. Approaching the anniversary of one of the turning points of his life, Hamilton remarked: "I've always had great experiences here. I look at it as a stepping stone in my life, something I learned a whole lot from.
"Every time I've come here, my first year in Melbourne I got a podium position in my first Grand Prix, and then in 2008 I came here and I won. Last year, don't forget I had a great race. I came from dead last on the grid up to fourth place. So it was still a good experience. "But 2009 was a tough year altogether. I learned a lot throughout about team building and lifting up the team. "The team does so much, but at the end of the day I'm the one who has to jump in and get the results for them."
Asked if those memories of a year ago soured his previous success, Hamilton replied: "Not at all. Being a racer you're always looking forward. When you're in a race car travelling at 200mph you have to look far, far forward. "I approach my life day by day. We are in the fast lane. It goes by fast and you have to be ready for what is coming up, not what has happened in the past." Hamilton finished a distant third behind the two Ferraris at this season's opening race in Bahrain, but is optimistic that he can put up more of a fight in Melbourne.
"I had a great race in Bahrain despite losing time in the opening stint," he said. "I pushed like crazy for the whole race and I am pleased that we have got some decent points on the board. I am looking forward to Melbourne. I like the circuit, I think we will go well there. I do not think we will have the same problems that slowed our progress in Bahrain. @Email:email@example.com