READY FOR TITLE DEFENCE: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton aims to beat his 2014 title-winning record in 2015. Image: AP/ Miguel Morenatti
LONDON, England - Mercedes' 2014 Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says he will go into the 2015 season mentally stronger than ever after learning to keep his personal and professional life apart.
Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races in 2014 on his way to his second title but he and on/off girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger have separated since she watched him win the Abu Dhabi season-ender - and thereby the title - in November 2014.
"I think in 2014, I adapted... a mental attitude that was kind of, I would like to say, impenetrable," the now 30-year-old told reporters in England before heading to Australia for the March 15 season-opener."
'I FEEL STRONGER THAN EVER'
He added: "In previous years it (personal issues) affected my life in general but I feel I still carry that kind of mentality from last year (2014).
"Having been in this position before, I feel stronger than ever so I don't feel that it's going to be a problem."
Hamilton started the 2014 season, the first of the new V6 turbo/hybrid era, with some pundits suspecting his team mate Nico Rosberg might get the better of the man who so often wears his heart on his sleeve and lives under the glare of public interest.
Instead, Hamilton won most of the mind battles with Rosberg, stepping up a gear after their collision in Belgium. Everything aligned for the double champion in 2014 and, he said, "that was a rarity".
He said: "It's like once in a blue moon that it's all in line but I still feel I have enough in place to do what I need to do and to be the best I can. It's not easy to better a season like 2014. In terms of performance it was the best year I've had, but that doesn't mean I can't beat it - it's what I'll be trying to do."
Hamilton is also still negotiating his contract extension with Mercedes; the current one will run out at the end of 2015. Negotiations were "progressing well".
He said: "I hope we're in the final stages. I don't know what the time line is; we're not rushing but we're very much in the last stages.
"So, for the foreseeable future, I'm committed to this team."Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 F1 season – fresh reports every day.