Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has said he does not care whether he is liked.
The 32-year-old this season sealed his fourth title, making him the most successful British Formula One driver of all time.
As a kid, I always dreamt of being in Formula 1. I never lost sight of that dream, even when people said it would be impossible. I stand here now with 4 World Championships and am proof that if you follow your dreams with everything you have, they can come true. I am so grateful to all 1,500 people in my Team who all have a dream of making the best F1 car and tirelessly make that dream a reality. My fans, #TeamLH, I would not be here without you. You’ve carried me through adversity and shared my joy in moments such as these. Truly, thank you. We are all rising together and I am so excited for what our future brings together. #LH4 🏆#StillWeRise #TeamLH @mercedesamgf1 📷@suttonimages
But if the Mercedes driver remains a polarising figure with some, he insists that does not bother him.
“I don’t really feel anything,” he said in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek. “I know what my values are, I know what I’ve achieved and I know where me and my family have come from. I don’t rely on acceptance from any source other than my family and myself so honestly I couldn’t care if (popularity) was more or less.
“There is a lot of positivity when I go to the British Grand Prix and I get a great amount of support around the world, with British flags all over the place. I only notice the positives. There may be negative people out there or those with negative things to say but that has no relevance in my life.”
Hamilton is now one of only five drivers in F1 history with four or more titles, and is three behind Michael Schumacher’s record.
But the Stevenage-born racer said catching the German was not a target for him.
“I’ve also said I don’t have a desire to do what Michael has done even though now, with the wins, it’s not that far away,” he said. “Can I get there? Yeah, sure, if I stay long enough I’m sure I can probably get there. But it’s not what drives me. What drives me is the challenge of each year I’m currently embarking on.
“I don’t know when I’m going to stop. It could be a year, it could be five. We’ll see.”
Hamilton said his focus is on being the best driver he can be, and he believes he still has much he can improve.
“I love racing and I’m going to continue to do it while I love it,” he said. “I’ve got a great opportunity to continue while at my best. I think I’m still growing, still improving, and I don’t think I’m at my best yet. I’m at my best to this point in my life, but I think there’s more to come.
“More growth, more to achieve, to always be better. My only goal is to continue to raise the bar.”
Hamilton added that he took pride in the increasing diversity of Formula One, which he said had changed massively since he became the sport’s first black driver in 2007.
“People come up to me from different ethnic backgrounds. I have Asian families, black families, Mexican families come up to me and saying, ‘My kid wants to be you one day’, and I can assure you when I started racing there weren’t people from those places,” he said.
“I take great pride in that. Like the great Williams sisters (Serena and Venus), like Tiger Woods, who really broke a mould, knocked down a wall for others to come through. Jeez, even I play tennis now and I wouldn’t have played tennis in school so I’m proud to be part of that hopefully positive change.”