Lewis Hamilton says the trials and controversy of his 2011 season were necessary in order for him to learn and grow, and that such knowledge means he can now see the positives from his current campaign.
The Briton has attracted flak throughout the season both as a result of off-track outbursts and on-track incidents, while he also faces finishing second to a teammate for the first time in his Formula 1 career. While such tribulations provided a source of concern during in the season, Hamilton says they have also helped him assess his priorities in what he describes as a 'year of growth'.
"I was talking to a friend recently saying its been a difficult year, and he said it's been a year of growth which was one of the most positive things I have learned this year," Hamilton said. "What I've learned this year I'll take into next so I feel positive about it. I think in the future I'll look back on this season, smile and say, 'I needed that.'
"I haven't really thought about the last victory: afterward I was just back in the simulator and thinking about this race. But I have had a really good few positive days since then which have meant more to me than the race win, so I have got a lot of positive energy at the moment.
"There is only one driver who has won more [races], Sebastian, so it could be worse – but it could also always be better. If I look back on this year while it's not been a year I have won the most grands prix and the championship, but a year where I have learned quite a bit.
"I think I will come out stronger: I can't say I am there yet, but when I get to the winter and reflect on the whole season I will. I'm definitely a lot wiser than when I started the season and that's always a positive."
In the build up to his victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Hamilton spoke of his desire to build a "happy bubble" of friends and family around him, but said he wanted to move away from the word and simply focus on the balance of his approach to the sport.
"I want to get rid of that word 'bubble' really," he said. "I mentioned it, I was just talking about having lots of positive people and family most importantly. I've been reminded this year just how important family is.
"Its about striking a balance – you can be too serious, too intense, or not serious enough. I've been racing since I was eight years old and I still don't have the right formula for it. Obviously, the car has a big impact on that, but every year is a journey to finding the right solution.
"Last year I spent five or six hours a day training: it was just so much work, a bit too serious I think. This year will be about keeping the training up, but the most important bit will be the time in between: spending it with family and friends, making sure I enjoy it more.
"That's what gets your mind in better shape for next season. Without a doubt I'll turn up very fit next season, but spending time with your family is also massively important."
Hamilton also said he expected Red Bull to carry their 2011 form into next season, and said it was up to McLaren to provide a worthy challenge.
"I have no doubts they'll carry on into next season, so it's our job to somehow make sure the car we carry over is better than this year's car by quite a long way, and from day one. Every year we try to arrive with a car that's the best but obviously we've struggled in the last couple of years. Since 2009 we've started better, and I think with next year's car we'll start on the right track.
"If we can do that we have the strength to stay ahead and compete with anyone. Time will tell."