WHENEVER people ask me what Lewis Hamilton is like, it never matters what I reply.
I could explain that he pays a hefty amount of tax, that he has genuine concern for the environment, that he is pushing for equality and diversity.
But it would be a waste of time because they already know what they want me to say.
They want me to explain that he is a show off, arrogant, flash, rude… but nothing could be further from the truth.
In the nine and a half years I have been covering F1 for The Sun, I have interviewed him lots of times.
I have seen his highs and lows; the good bits and the bad bits.
For those that don’t know him and wish to criticise, he is a sitting duck.
By default racing a car makes you a soft target when you try to speak up for any cause, particularly hard when it is about the environment.
Then there is the tax debate. Hamilton’s mistake was being honest about moving to Switzerland in 2007 and the obvious tax breaks.
And then there was the private jet listed in the Paradise Papers – complicated scheme set up that saw him earn a VAT refund on the plane imported in 2013.
Hamilton was blasted from the rooftops yet, here is the crucial bit on both occasions, he didn’t break the law.
For the record, he does pay tax. A recent story placed him in the UK’s top 5,000 biggest tax payers.
And then let’s get to the day job. Hamilton is hugely successful. Six world titles, 84 wins in 241 races, an incredible 151 podiums in F1.
“Ah, but he does have the best car” – is the usual argument that is trotted back.
Then you show me someone who did not win the F1 title in the best car that year.
Hamilton as a successful sportsman has driven the Mercedes brand forward.
Once seen as a stuffy, old man’s motor, his and the team’s success has helped transform the brand.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is frequently left justifying Hamilton’s salary and simply points to the team’s on-track success and the Mercedes-Benz balance sheet.
Then there is Lewis Hamilton the campaigner. He’s supported many projects, the current focus is the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is worth remembering just how much F1 is dominated my white men. There is still such an issue with a lack of diversity.
However, in speaking out Hamilton has not only convinced his team to change their livery to help end racism, but F1 too has followed his initiative.
But what is he actually doing?
Well, he is not only the sport’s flag-bearer when it comes to promoting social issues, he’s also launched his own research project called The Hamilton Commission aimed at improving diversity in the motorsport industry.
Put simply, the world has an opinion on Lewis Hamilton and I am not here to try and change that.
I can only say how I find him as someone who works and speaks to him regularly.
His new contract is up soon and people will scoff at the figure. That’s fine. They can do that.
But for me, and it would seem Mercedes too, he is worth every penny.