Lewis Hamilton says he has emerged from his tumultuous start to the season a stronger man, after admitting the past few weeks have been "very tough" for him.
Having faced troubles with his car on track, and criticism off it for his involvement in the lying controversy, the World Champion has deliberately kept a low profile in recent races. But he ended his self-imposed "exile" in Monaco on Thursday when he sat down with the British press to explain his feelings.
Speaking in a relaxed and friendly manner, no doubt buoyed by the strong on-track performance of his McLaren around the streets of Monte Carlo, Hamilton said he felt he had grown and learned from the events of the past few weeks.
"Yes, definitely," he said. "All these experiences I've had. I am not perfect, I am not a politician, I say things wrong every now and then. I'm sure everyone does.
"You try to learn from those experiences, carry them with you and try to grow. I've had a world championship which is something I am still very proud to have. I am trying just now to build on those bricks and keep getting better. I do feel as a driver if I had last year's car I'd be in a great position."
Hamilton apologised for not having maintained his usual media commitments in recent weeks, but explained that it had been important for him to get things straight in his head about all that had gone on.
"It's just taking some time to reflect on things, analyse it, and understand exactly what's gone on," he said. "And then to be able to grow from it. You can't just get on with things. You have to be able to analyse it so you don't make the same mistake again."
He added: "It hasn't been a great start to the year, but everyone knows that. It's been very, very tough. As we get more into the season it's getting more exciting for us. You may not see it so much from the outside but we've made huge steps forwards, even if not so huge here because of the type of circuit it is. But we've made some great steps. That's the exciting thing."
Hamilton admitted that he found it strange there had been so much attention on him since the start of the year.
"People don't realise that whilst we look like superstars we live pretty normal lives....every now and again we go on holiday and that's better, but our normal life is the same as yours.
"If anything your apartment may be bigger than mine. I've got a nice neat place, nothing special, nothing spectacular. I live a normal life in Geneva. Generally, away from everything I live a normal life. I am a normal person; a human being. People look at me and see a superstar and expect someone superhuman. But I'm a normal guy. I have made that mistake in the past with people in the hierarchy. They are humans at the end of the day."
Hamilton also praised the role of his father Anthony in helping get through the troubles of the past few weeks.
"Me and my dad have a fantastic relationship and it has not affected that in any way, if anything its strengthened it," he said. "Dad showed an ability to speak to me, and our communication has improved.
"Without my dad, first of all I wouldn't be here. He's the one that is the backbone. He has never ever failed. He has been to every single race through my whole career and I've been to a lot of races since I was eight years old. He has always backed me up.
"He always supported me whether I am right or wrong. And he's helped me get around it and everything. He plays a huge key role in my life."
And speaking about how things had changed with mentor Ron Dennis having stepped back from the F1 team, Hamilton said: "I miss Ron. It is not the same feeling as my dad because he has, literally, been by my side ever since the start.
"Ron got a lot more involved since I got into single-seaters, GP2, and F1. My relationship with Ron is still very strong. I miss having him around. The paddock feels a little bit empty without him here."