Lewis Hamilton has opened up about his 2021 world title heartache and his efforts to return Mercedes to competitive ways after a difficult start to the 2022 season.
Hamilton was on course for a record-breaking eighth world title at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when a late Safety Car, and controversial restart, turned the race on its head.
Running old, Hard tyres as the race restarted for one lap, Hamilton was overhauled by Red Bull rival Max Verstappen, who had pitted to switch to the Soft compound rubber.
Having reacted graciously to the defeat post-race, the Briton subsequently took a break from social media, returning shortly before Mercedes' 2022 car launch and pre-season testing.
Then, as the W13 took to the track, it quickly became clear that it would not be a front-running machine – or one Hamilton could fight back with.
Hamilton reflects on "tough" period
In an interview for Viaplay, Hamilton was asked about the 'double blow' of missing out on the 2021 title and returning in 2022 with an uncompetitive car.
"It was definitely tough," said Hamilton, speaking to former teammate Heikki Kovalainen.
"My winter was a lot of self-reflection... I was surrounded by my family, that was the most beautiful thing. My family really, really reacted and all came around me.
"I wasn't on my phone, I wasn't on social media... I was just playing with the kids, building snowmen. We were playing in the water, playing in the waves.
"I continued to train, because that was kind of healthy for my mindset, and a lot of thinking, kind of, 'What do I want to do next? How do I want to take this?'
"Then, to turn the negative into a positive and be like, 'Okay, I'm gonna come back and fight', and then to not have the ability to be able to fight back, and regain what I had fought for last year, has definitely been tough."
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Hamilton and Mercedes growing together
Kovalainen pointed out that Hamilton has never looked frustrated or desperate so far this season, prompting further self-reflection from the 37-year-old.
"I think it's definitely not been perfect. I've definitely not been perfect in the background," Hamilton commented.
"I definitely would say it's been a struggle, particularly off the end of last year, so it's been a real kind of odd kind of growth process.
"I've tried a lot of things with the car and experiments, and it's often caught us out. I've struggled with feeling comfortable in the car this year.
"To finally be in a place where that's not the case... I'm in a more kind of leading position with the car now, rather than it leading me. It's been good."
He added: "I think also there's people in our team that have been here for many, many years, even before our success, and then there's people that are new to the team, who have been here only with the wins, so this is a new experience for them also.
"I think for anybody, it's a good experience to have. The adversity only makes you stronger. It's the failures, I think, that truly make us strong."
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