Lewis Hamilton has described 2011 as "the most trying year of my career" after being embroiled in a series of incidents that have blighted his season. The 26-year-old Briton, who won the 2008 world championship in just his second season in the sport, has won two Grands Prix this year but sits a distant fifth in the championship.
Hamilton, in his McLaren-Mercedes, is a massive 141 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, with the German just one point away from securing his second consecutive world championship at the weekend's Japanese GP.
Speaking at Suzuka yesterday, Hamilton admitted that his past two seasons have been difficult to accept.
He said: "Up until 2008, I've won a championship every second year of my career since I was eight years old. I've done pretty well until now, but I've had a couple of tough years.
This has probably been the most trying year, the most testing year, of my career so far. "It's not about how or what I've done this year, it is about how I rise out of it and above it, and how I come out on top." Hamilton got a drive-through penalty for running into the back of the Ferrari of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the last race in Singapore a fortnight ago, which sparked a verbal and minor physical altercation between the drivers after the race.
Yesterday Massa said: "If he comes to speak to me, it's fine. I tried to speak to him, but he didn't want to speak to me. That's why I was disappointed. If I was in his position, I would say sorry." Hamilton insisted he'd moved on from the incident.