Austin Texas - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton kept his calm and laid on the charm as he faced a packed US Grand Prix news conference on Thursday, two weeks after stirring up a media storm in Japan.
At Suzuka Hamilton complained about the “boring” format of the news conference that drivers must attend if asked, fiddling with his phone and using a Snapchat app on pictures of fellow drivers, and then walked out of a post-qualifying media briefing in response to “disrespectful” criticism.
In Austin, he confounded those expecting or hoping for more controversy by coming across instead as attentive, assured and in control.
Hamilton still made sure of the snap, handing his iPhone to French driver Romain Grosjean to take a group picture after the moderator's opening questions, but there was also plenty of chat.
“I waited for everyone to finish their questions and answers. It's a good picture. You're all in it,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton spoke thoughtfully about the humanitarian crisis in hurricane-hit Haiti, declared his love for America and emphasised his desire to connect with his legion of fans. All questions were answered, none ducked.
“Bless you,” he even told one reporter, who had sneezed during one of those replies.
Asked why he blocked some British reporters on Twitter after Japan, Hamilton assured them it was not his doing and his social media accounts were curated by others, even if the content came from him.
“I don't know who has been blocked or not,” he said. “Think it was a blocking spree.”
‘Take it like a man’
If some reporters saw it all as a determined charm offensive, it was certainly a far cry from a man described as being in 'meltdown' mode after Japan dealt another blow to his fading hopes of ending the season with a fourth title.
Hamilton was even asked how he would feel if team-mate Nico Rosberg, now 33 points clear with four races remaining, were to win the championship.
“Try to take it like a man,” he said. “You can't win them all.
“I’m in the position right now where there are still a lot of points available so I will give it everything I’ve got and still have the belief that anything is possible.
“Then I will move on and go into the next season and hopefully come back stronger.”
Hamilton declared himself fully fit for Sunday's US Grand Prix after a sore foot ruled him out of tyre testing last week.
“I am 100 percent, feeling great,” he assured reporters on Thursday. “I basically had an injury that I've been carrying generally all year long, in both feet. Just induced by running.
“Unfortunately the physio said that it just takes a lot of stretching and it just heals over a long time,” he added.
Hamilton was spotted limping at a factory celebration of his Mercedes team's third consecutive Constructors' championship and did not attend the Pirelli test in Barcelona on Wednesday as had been scheduled.
“At the time I woke up in the morning, I was feeling quite a lot of pain the day before, and it hadn't diminished,” he explained at the Circuit of the Americas.
“The most important thing was to be fresh for here and feeling better for here. This is actually the first week that it's felt good.”
‘Good hunting ground’
Hamilton needs to win the remaining four races and hope Rosberg, who is 33 points ahead of him, slips up along the way.
He clinched his third title in Texas last year, winning after Rosberg made a late mistake and gifted him the lead.
Rosberg has won nine races so far this season to Hamilton's six, but the Briton has a much better career record in the Americas.
“America has always been a good hunting ground for me” he said. “I've been out here for a week already, so I'm looking forward to fighting again.”