Lewis Hamilton returns to the Australian Grand Prix this weekend a year on from the lying scandal that engulfed him and McLaren adamant that the experience helped make him a better man, rather than being one that should be totally forgotten.
The McLaren driver was awarded a podium finish at Melbourne last year after claiming to stewards that Jarno Trulli had overtaken him during a safety car period – even though he had followed team orders to let the Toyota driver through. Although the eventual outing of the truth meant Hamilton was stripped of the top-three finish, and at the center of a controversy that nearly caused him to quit the sport, the 2008 World Champion reckons that some good did come out of the events.
"I've always had great experiences here and I don't look at last year's experience as a bad one," said Hamilton, speaking during a promotional event for Vodafone in Sydney on Wednesday. "I look at it as a steppingstone in my life and something I learned a whole lot from.
"Every time I've come here, my first year in Melbourne I got a first podium position in my first grand prix. In 2008, I came here and I won. Last year, don't forget I had a great race. I came from dead last on the grid up into fourth place. So it was still a good experience.
"2009 was a tough year altogether. I learned a lot throughout about team building and lifting up the team. The team does so much, but at the end of the day I'm the one who has to jump in and get the results for the team."
Hamilton insists that he does not want to waste time re-analyzing the events of last year, with his focus instead being on securing McLaren's first win of the season.
"Being a racer, you're always looking forward," he said. "When you're in a racecar traveling at 200mph you have to look far, far forward. And I approach my life day by day. We are in the fast lane. It goes by fast and you have to be ready for what is coming up. Not what has happened in the past."
Hamilton is bullish that McLaren can improve on its third-placed finish from the season opener in Bahrain, with the Albert Park set to play to the MP4-25's strengths better than Bahrain did.
"Sometimes your car suits it better than others – this circuit should work to the strengths of our car," he added. "We feel stronger coming in to this race and hopefully we can get more points – for myself and Jenson. We do have a chance of winning this weekend. And, hopefully, we'll be able to get that edge.
"Confidence is something you build on. I don't want to come here and say 'yeah we're going to win'. I feel confident I have a great strong team behind me and Jenson goes well here in Australia. So I'm confident we can go better."
Hamilton also had nothing but praise for how teammate Jenson Button is working with him. "The thing is I've had different experiences with different teammates. Some you have an aggressive tension between, where clearly you want to beat each other. You always want to beat each other. But with Jenson, we are more just friends outside of the car. Of course, we want to beat each other, but we are professionals.
"We know once the other one alongside you does well, it makes you pull your socks up. But there is a good feeling in the team. I feel privileged. I have a World Champion alongside me."