Lewis Hamilton has been scarred for life by racist abuse he suffered as a child, his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has claimed.
Hamilton, 34, could celebrate a remarkable sixth world championship in the breathless Mexico City air on Sunday, taking him to within one of Michael Schumacher's all-time tally.
And yet the Mercedes driver continues to divide opinion in his homeland.
He remains stuck on an MBE while the other outstanding British sportsmen of his generation, Andy Murray and Mo Farah, have received knighthoods.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 24: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 24, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Formula One drivers, front row L-R: Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc, Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, Red Bull Racing's French driver Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen, middle row (R-L) Renault's German driver Nico Hulkenberg, Renault's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, HAAS F1 Team's Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, HAAS F1 Team's French driver Romain Grosjean, McLaren's British driver Lando Norris, McLaren's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr, Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll, Racing Point's Mexican driver Sergio Perez, top row (L-R) Williams' Polish driver Robert Kubica, Williams' British driver George Russell, Toro Rosso's Russian driver Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso's Thai driver Alexander Albon, Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo's Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi pose for a photo prior to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Glenn Nicholls / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read GLENN NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales talks to 14 year old Lewis Hamilton who is sponsored by Mclaren's driver support programme during his visit to McLaren's Formula One factory in Woking.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) ART
Felipe Massa (right) celebrates claiming Pole position with second placed Lewis Hamilton during qualifying at Magny Cours, Nevers, France.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks to Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
(left to right) Nigel Mansell, Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, and Damon Hill at the British Racing Drivers Club Awards, at the Cafe Royal, Piccadilly, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton is loaded onto a helicopter following his crash during a qualifying session for the European Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring, Germany.
David Coulthard (centre) with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Lewis Hamilton drives Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy round the track in a Mercedes SLR 7722 during the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, London.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates after finishing in pole position at Silverstone, Northamptonshire.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton in the pits during Practice Day for the 2013 Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in the garage during third practice at the Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona.
McLaren Mercedes' Jenson Button of Great Britain and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain in the pits during Second Practice Session during Practice for the Formula One Santander British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Northampton.
Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with his brother and his father during The Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Monaco.
Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2014, Lewis Hamilton, second placed Rory McIlroy (right) and third placed Jo Pavey (left)during the 2014 Sports Personality of the Year Awards at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow.
Nicole Scherzinger and Lewis Hamilton arriving at the British Fashion Awards 2014, the Colosseum Theatre, London.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton unveil the new Mercedes W06 during pre-season testing at the Circuito de Jerez in Jerez, Spain.
(Left - right) Lewis Hamilton, Rita Ora, Graham Norton, Ewan McGregor and Jack Whitehall during filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, south London, to be aired on Friday.
File photo dated 10-07-2016 of Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory with the crowd after winning the 2016 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester.
Lewis Hamilton asks NASA astronaut whether the moon landings were faked
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) Singer Rita Ora, F1 Driver Lewis Hamilton, designer Donatella Versace and MMA Fighter Connor McGregor are seen at The Fashion Awards 2017 in partnership with Swarovski at Royal Albert Hall on December 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/BFC/Getty Images for BFC)
ALBERT PARK, VIC - MARCH 17: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Lewis Hamilton (44) holds up the second place trophy at The Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 17, 2019, at The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport on the drivers parade before the start of the 2019 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Second-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton attends a press conference after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, 2019. (Photo by Asanka Brendon RATNAYAKE / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
17th March 2019, Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia; Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix, race day; Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Valtteri Bottas wins first race of the year followed by his team mate Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari look on at the F1 Drivers Class of 2019 photo before the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes takes a photo with photographers after taking pole position for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Lewis HAMILTON of Mercedes-AMG-Petronas Formula One Team greets fans at the 2019 F1 Season Launch (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) and team principal Toto Wolff (L) greet fans onstage during an F1 live event to introduce drivers and team principals in Melbourne on March 13, 2019, ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) is pictured in the Petronas Yamaha SRT pit at Losail track in Doha on March 9, 2019. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton is seen, outside Stella McCartney, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020, on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Oprah Winfrey attend the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: Lewis Hamilton and Stella McCartney pose after the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 02: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Lewis Hamilton arrives at the Tommy Hilfiger TOMMYNOW Spring 2019 : TommyXZendaya Premieres at Theatre des Champs-Elysees on March 02, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images For Tommy Hilfiger)
File photo dated 28-10-2018 of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 04: (L-R) Stefano Tonchi, Carine Roitfeld, Lewis Hamilton and Anna Dello Russo attends the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 on March 04, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton and Winnie Harlow attend the 2018 CFDA Awards at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, NY, on June 4, 2018. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
TOPSHOT - Mercedes Benz's British driver Lewis Hamilton signs autographs at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City on October 24, 2019, ahead of the weekend's Grand Prix. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)
Third-placed Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (C) chats with second-placed Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L) and sixth-placed Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (R) after the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP) (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks dejected in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Hamilton broke down racial barriers as a junior karter en route to the summit of Formula One, but he remains the sport's only black driver.
He has called for greater diversity, and in 2011, he controversially said he was being penalised by stewards "because I am black, that's what Ali G says", in reference to the satirical fictional television character.
"When Lewis was younger he was the only black kid among the white kids, and I know he was racially abused on the track," Wolff told the PA news agency.
"If that happens to an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, it just leaves scars that will not go away.
"If, as a child, you have had to overcome abuse and discrimination, on one side it makes you a stronger personality. But on the other side it also leaves scars.
"Today, Lewis has a good and mature perspective, but the scars are certainly there. That is not the only motivating factor for him – those scars are a witness of having survived.
"We have to acknowledge that we are not very diverse in Formula One, and I have certainly learned through Lewis to accept that it is difficult to overcome discrimination from time to time.
"Exceptional personalities tend to polarise. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he has opinions, and by expressing them you will always run the risk of polarising. That is human nature."
Hamilton will be crowned king of the world for a third straight year in Mexico if he outscores his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points and is only nine victories away from matching Schumacher's race wins record.
But the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, situated 2,200 metres above sea level, has been something of a bogey venue for Hamilton and his Mercedes machinery in recent years.
In 2017 and 2018, Hamilton finished ninth and fourth respectively. He must cross the line at least in third on Sunday to stand any chance of securing the title.
While his wait for a fifth championship in six years is likely to be pushed back a week to the next round in Austin, it is unfeasible that Hamilton will not celebrate another title this season.
And Wolff, who has overseen Hamilton's sensational run of success, believes the Englishman could be considered as the finest driver to step into an F1 car.
"We don't recognise outstanding performances while they happen," added the Austrian. "We tend to try to find the hair in the soup rather than to acknowledge the sheer level of performance.
"When Lewis finishes his career, people will say he was truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest racing driver of all time."
Hamilton arrived in Mexico's capital city facing a charge of hypocrisy after lamenting the state of the planet and calling on his 13 million Instagram followers to ditch meat and embrace veganism in a bid to reduce global emissions.