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Hamilton hits back at criticism

CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai International Circuit
Race: Sunday, 19 October from 0800 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website and ITV1
Qualifying: Saturday, 18 October from 0700 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website and ITV1

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton slipped from pole position to a 12th-placed finish on Sunday

Lewis Hamilton has been forced onto the defensive by the barrage of criticism levelled at him after his performance in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old Englishman wasted the chance to extend his championship lead over title rival Felipe Massa at Fuji with another error-strewn race.

He still leads by five points with two races left but admitted: "When you're constantly scrutinised it is difficult.

"I'm only human, and every now and then people make mistakes."

On Sunday, Hamilton lost the lead from pole position on the first corner and then received a drive-through penalty after forcing Kimi Raikkonen off the track in an attempt to regain it.

His botched efforts paved the way for renewed attacks on his ability and character, and question whether Hamilton is again starting to crack under the weight of pressure as the title race draws to a close, as many suggest he did last year.

If I could achieve just a small part of what he's achieved it would be a dream for me

Lewis Hamilton on Ayrton Senna

Hamilton also raised eyebrows when he accused title rival Massa of deliberately colliding with him on the second lap in Japan and he admitted: "It's not easy to always say or do the right thing.

"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.

"Communication is so important in life and some of the things I've said were not meant to harm anyone. I don't feel like I've hurt anyone, and my family makes sure that doesn't happen."

Such a comment recently attributed to Hamilton quoted him as saying he felt he was a better driver than his hero Ayrton Senna.

Andrew Benson - BBC Sport

Issuing a categorical denial, Hamilton said: "I never said that and I definitely wouldn't say it about Ayrton because he's my favourite driver.

"I think he's the best driver there ever was and, to this day, I still don't believe anyone would beat him. If I could achieve just a small part of what he's achieved, it would be a dream for me."

And the Briton also believes the perception of some that he is arrogant is wrong, saying: "I would never say I was better than anyone else, but I am a Formula One 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 a better performance and to achieve more in your life.

"I look at the other drivers, I just think all these guys are the best and to be the best I have to beat them. That's how every racing driver sees things."

In the space of 18 months, Hamilton has become a global superstar, mixing with stars from the entertainment industry and dating pop singer Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.

But he said he had not been affected by fame.

"I feel I have that area of my life under control. 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.

"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.

"It's not easy to live like I used to but I can still do it sometimes; you just do it with people you trust and just be smart about it."

see also
Hill warns Hamilton to stay cool
13 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton accuses Massa over crash
13 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Alonso wins as title duo collide
12 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Japanese Grand Prix as it happened
12 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Japanese GP photos
12 Oct 08 |  Formula One

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