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Lewis Hamilton's rivals should be terrified of the man he has become

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Legard: Hamilton takes place amongst F1 gods (1:15)

Jonathan Legard looks back at a remarkable season for five-time Formula 1 Driver's Champion Lewis Hamilton. (1:15)

MEXICO CITY -- Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth Formula One world championship almost exactly ten years after winning his first in 2008, but the two men on either side of that decade are markedly different. That was never more apparent than in the press conference which followed the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday.

While he has clearly improved his on-track craft in that time -- having married his remarkable talent with a composure that was all-too-often lacking in the frustrating early days of his career -- it is Hamilton himself who has changed the most as an individual. Hamilton used to be a man capable of beating everyone one day and then beating himself the next, but this year it was Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel who cracked numerous times under pressure.

The younger Hamilton was a conflicted, troubled soul, a man who did not seem to know his place in the world beyond the cockpit of a racing car. The one who arrived at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this year displayed the sort of composure we have come to expect from Hamilton since he started winning championships again.

After clinching the title on Sunday -- with a performance he admitted was "horrible" in a season of career-defining moments -- Hamilton spoke to the written press for nearly 40 minutes after completing his obligatory duties in the paddock TV pen.

After being welcomed to the room with applause, the press conference started with a moment of levity when an Argentinian journalist called Fernando Alonso asked a question. Hamilton laughed -- "I never thought Fernando would be here asking me a question!" -- and then asked if he was any good at driving, with the slightly more famous Fernando Alonso set to quit Formula One at the end of the season.

Things then more turned more serious, with talk of records and Hamilton's status in the sport, before another famous name made an appearance -- but this time it was the real deal.

After prompting from Mercedes' head of communications, the microphone was passed to a man at the back of the packed room wearing the corporate team shirt of Mercedes. Of all the logos scattered around the white kit, one was his own, thanks to the deal Hamilton helped pull together ahead of the start of the current season. American fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger was there to pay his respects to one of his newest business partners, the man he launched Tommy X Lewis -- Hamilton's first fashion range -- with earlier this year.

"Lewis, congratulations, you are a superstar and a great human being," Hilfiger started, pausing only to receive a hug from Hamilton, who had suddenly leapt up from behind the desk at the front of the room and run to his friend when he had started talking.

He then continued to say: "He's a pleasure to work with. Lewis is not only a superstar, a world champion, a great race car driver, but he's also a fashion icon."

As Hamilton walked back to the front of the room to resume the press conference, Hamilton responded: "Tommy, you're the icon -- I'm trying to catch up with you!"

He was only half joking. Hamilton told ESPN last month that he feels like he is building an empire, and that F1 is only the beginning of it. His activities and commitments away from the track have grown since joining Mercedes in 2013, with the German team affording him the freedom Ron Dennis and McLaren never did in the first part of his career. The only thing Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has ever demanded in return is results on the track and Hamilton has been more than happy to oblige.

Any notion that Hamilton would be distracted from F1 by his life away from the circuit has been refuted this year. In Austin, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo said the most impressive part of Hamilton's current form is how he has combined it with such a busy life away from the confines of the F1 paddock. This year the fruits of Mercedes' approach were obvious as he reached what has arguably been the finest form of his career so far.

When asked if he has been empowered by his activities away from the track, he said: "Definitely, definitely.

"It's been a really special year in the sense of... I think everyone, I can talk about myself, but as soon as you tap into your creativity it's only a positive. There's no negative about that."

He then followed up with a line that perhaps encapsulates the 2018 version of Hamilton perfectly: "I think people have opinions for and against things that you do but for me, I don't do everything perfectly, I don't always say the right things, but one thing I do do is I do me. And I do it good.

"I can live my life the way I live it and can't be steered by anyone else. I try to do the right things in order to be my best and having the opportunity to do these other things, tapping into a different part of the mind, doing these things outside of racing, it has nothing to do with being a racing driver. But it's keeping the brain stimulated. Knowledge is power, so naturally when you're learning new things, experiencing new things, you're gaining knowledge as you travel the world. I only see that as a positive."

Hamilton has grown immeasurably as a man since winning the 2008 championship, one he himself frequently admits seems like a lifetime ago now. He peppered the rest of his Sunday press conference with some thoughtful reflections about his father and their well-documented struggles to break into motor racing at the start of his career, his desire to help young racing drivers get a good education and even suggested he has thought of building a school one day -- the sort of statements which have become commonplace in Hamilton's media engagements in recent years.

There is a calm about Hamilton now, a sense that he has finally found his place in the world. Speaking on the Thursday ahead of the race, he told the media there was "too much to do [away from F1] and not enough time", meaning he will not struggle to find new ventures and opportunities in 2019 and beyond to go alongside his racing commitments.

He was still in a philosophical mood on Sunday evening.

"It's kind of difficult to put it into words but naturally I don't want my time on earth to mean nothing," he said at one point. "I'm sure that you all feel that way. You all want to know that your time was spent well and you didn't squander it. And that's my goal."

Rather than detract from his day job or make him think about retiring to free up his time for these various opportunities, it does the opposite, and Hamilton does not think his hunger to win championships is going to disappear any time soon.

"I feel like I'm still driving with that fierce fire that I had when I was eight years old, which I love. So I'll keep going until that goes, which I don't think it's ever going to go but I will just... my body clock will run out at some stage."

It is clear Hamilton has never been more comfortable about who he is and what he is doing inside and outside of a Formula One cockpit. Given the form he was able to produce for much of 2018 that should be an utterly terrifying prospect for any driver wanting to beat him to a world championship any time soon.