Lewis Hamilton has revealed his appreciation for the outpouring of support he received in the wake of his controversial 2021 F1 title defeat to Max Verstappen that ultimately also helped him through a tough 2022 campaign.
The Mercedes driver has claimed the affection from supporters after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix duel helped him push through the trials and tribulations presented to the Silver Arrows across Hamilton's first winless season in F1.
Hamilton and rival Verstappen entered the 2021 decider for a winner-takes-all duel, though the race was concluded in contentious circumstances given the decision-making from then-FIA race director Michael Masi during a late safety car.
The hurt sent Hamilton into exile from public life with his return to F1 not confirmed until weeks before pre-season testing.
When he did take to the track, however, the W13 presented challenges and the lack of competitiveness from the machinery saw only one win for George Russell across the entire season.
Recounting the adoration, Hamilton told Channel 4: "I was not expecting what would come after in terms of the amazing support from the fans of the sport but particularly my fans.
"And then the general love I have experienced through the year which I think has got me through the year with the challenge of coming back and wanting to fight back but not being able to fight back with the car we have.
"Even though we are finishing sixth, fighting for fifth or whatever it is, the amazing support we have had through the year, bigger crowds than ever before this year, the team has experienced more love and affection than ever before and that has been really beautiful to see.
"I know some people in life struggle to accept love, I have been like that for some time, so this year was one I was able to open up a little bit more and absorb it.
"That has really been a beautiful experience so I am really grateful for that."