Lewis Hamilton has admitted for the first time that he believes his whirlwind lifestyle and decision to live away from Britain may have stalled his popularity in his homeland.
The 32-year-old will end his Formula One career as one of the most decorated drivers the sport has ever seen. Indeed his three championship triumphs, 56 victories, and 66 poles - which leaves him just two short of Michael Schumacher's all-time record - is testament to his motor racing prowess.
But while Hamilton, born in the humble surroundings of Stevenage, enjoys arguably the greatest support of all F1's drivers, he continues to divide opinion among the wider British public.
Hamilton courted criticism in 2007 after he left Britain to move to the tax haven of Switzerland in his rookie year. He now resides in Monaco, another country where he is exempt from paying tax, but one, in the Englishman's defence, which is home to many of his contemporaries.
Hamilton's chaotic lifestyle away from the track is one that often comes under scrutiny, too. On Wednesday, he took the curious decision to snub the chance to appear in front of swathes of British fans in a spectacular parade of F1 cars through London, and went on holiday to Greece instead.
"I don't think I've done any wrongdoings to anyone in my life, and I never feel in any part of my day that I deserve anything," Hamilton said ahead of this week's British Grand Prix.
"Does my love for the UK feel that it is reflected in equal amounts? I don't know. I think the love that I get when I go to the British Grand Prix is immense and when I've won Sports Personality of the Year in the past people have called in, so I've obviously had a lot of support. But do people know how much I love the UK? Maybe not enough.
"When I'm on the podium and I carry the flag, hopefully people will start to see my patriotism. It's something I'm very proud of and maybe that's just going to take time."
Asked why he felt he did not have the backing of the entire country, Hamilton added: "I think it probably reflects a long time of a lot of s*** that has gone on. Who knows?
"Misinterpreted things that have been written, who knows? The way I live my life. And maybe where I live. Who knows?"
Andy Murray endured an equally tempestuous relationship with the public during the formative years of his career. Murray then won the hearts and minds of the British people when he cried on Centre Court moments after losing to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final.
The Scot returned to win the Olympic title at the London Games later that summer before becoming the first British male in 77 years to be crowned Wimbledon champion. He won the SW19 title last year for a second time, ended the season as the number one player in the world, and was awarded a knighthood.
"Of course, it's hard to even imagine that that would ever be the case (for me)," Hamilton, two years Murray's senior, said. "But it's a very special thing to have even met the Queen, so I am grateful of that."
Hamilton will arrive at Silverstone 20 points adrift of title rival Sebastian Vettel after he finished only fourth at last week's race in Austria.
The Briton is bidding to win the event for a record-equalling fifth time, and at Silverstone for the fourth consecutive year.
"When all these other drivers come to the British Grand Prix they expect it to be our weekend," Hamilton added. "If anything they want to go there and beat you on your own turf.
"So of course you turn up there and you absorb a little bit more strength and power from the energy of that crowd and really give it everything you've got because you want to deliver for them."
21 January 2019
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