Lewis Hamilton refutes ‘playboy’ image but targets another champagne moment

Lewis Hamilton insists he is not Formula One's playboy and says he deserves greater credit for the hard work which puts him on the brink of becoming the sport's most successful driver at Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

After equalling Michael Schumacher's win tally at the previous round in Germany, Hamilton has the opportunity in the Algarve to take his 92nd win and claim the record as his own.

Hamilton is also closing in on Schumacher's record haul of seven championships. He heads into the first grand prix to be staged at Portimao with a 69-point lead over Valtteri Bottas ahead of the concluding six rounds.

"I know I am given this playboy kind of image which is not me," said Hamilton, who split from his last-known girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger in 2015.

"If you were to go home to see me with my family you would know my core values.

"Over the years, people have assumed many things in terms of how my lifestyle is because I go to different events and I have a life and interests out of the sport.

"But people take for granted the time I allow myself to be focused on being the best I can be, physically in the right shape and also mentally, too. I never do anything that will get in the way or hinder that.

"Only I know how far or how thinly I can stretch myself, and I have managed to strike a decent balance."

Hamilton has won seven of the 11 races staged during this coronavirus disturbed campaign.

British Grand Prix - Race - Silverstone
British Grand Prix - Race - Silverstone

On the evidence of first practice in Portugal on Friday, only team-mate Bottas – who finished ahead of Hamilton in the opening running – will stand in his way of making history.

Hamilton has won five of the past six championships against the backdrop of a hectic off-track agenda, but he has spent much of this year in either his motorhome at an F1 track or his Monte Carlo apartment as a result of the pandemic.

Hamilton added: "The other years have been massively rushed with a lot going on, running from one place to another, flying from London to New York, New York to Singapore, arriving for the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix, and doing the best qualifying lap I have ever done. I have continuously proved people's theories wrong.

"However, this year has been different. I have done hardly any travelling -which has been quite pleasant.

"I have been at home longer than I have ever been in my entire life and it gives you time to train when you want. There are no excuses for missing sessions.

Portugal F1 GP Auto Racing
Portugal F1 GP Auto Racing

"The positive this year is that I have been able to have the time off from the things that I don't want to do. I have not been pulled left, right and centre. There are commitments I have which I don't want to do but it is part of the machine we are involved in. A lot of those things have disappeared.

"The core of me is motor racing and that is what I have always loved doing. It is almost like karting, where I would go to school and then go racing every weekend. Now it is a bit like those original days."

Ahead of Sunday's grand prix. Hamilton questioned the FIA's decision to hire Vitaly Petrov as a steward here following controversial comments made by the Russian on race and sexuality. But the governing body has moved to defend their appointment.

In a statement to the PA news agency, they said: "The FIA appoints driver stewards with the relevant Formula One experience and expertise to carry out this function at the highest level, and who have expressed an interest to the FIA in being a driver steward.

"The Federation does not discriminate in this process based upon views expressed outside of their function as an FIA Steward, provided that any such expression does not contravene the FIA's regulations and Code of Ethics."