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LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is going into the new season mentally stronger than ever after learning to keep his personal and professional life apart.
Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races last year on his way to a second title. However, he and on-off girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger have separated since she watched him win the Abu Dhabi season-ender and title last November.
"I think last year, I adapted ... a mental attitude that was kind of, I would like to say, impenetrable," the Mercedes driver told British reporters before heading to Australia for the March 15 season-opener.
"In the previous years it has been the case where it (personal issues) has affected my life in general but I feel that I still carry that kind of mentality from last year.
"Having been in this position before, I feel stronger than ever so I don’t feel that it’s going to be a problem."
The Briton started the 2014 season, the first of the new V6 turbo hybrid era, with some pundits suspecting his team mate Nico Rosberg might get the better of a man who so often wears his heart on his sleeve and lives in the public glare.
Instead, Hamilton won more of the mind battles between the two title rivals, stepping up a gear in particular after they collided in Belgium.
Everything aligned for the double champion last year and he said that was a rarity.
"It's like once in a blue moon that it’s all in line but I still feel like I’ve got enough in place to do what I need to do and to be the best I can be," said the 30-year-old.
"It’s not easy to better a season like last year. In terms of performance, it was the best year that I think I’ve ever had, but it doesn’t mean I can’t beat it so that’s what I’m trying to do."
Hamilton is also negotiating his own contract extension with Mercedes, with the existing one running out at the end of the year, and he said that was progressing well.
"Hopefully we’re in the final stages. I don’t really know what the timeline is for that but we’re not rushing, but we’re very much in the last stages of it," he said.
"So for the foreseeable future, I’m committed to this team."
Editing by Peter Rutherford