Lewis Hamilton admits he forgot he is a four-time F1 world champ during winter break surfing and snowboarding

Mercedes handed the Brit his longest holiday following a “very tough year, physically, mentally and emotionally for everyone at the team.”

But Hamilton’s batteries are now fully charged to begin his title defence at next Sunday’s season opener in Melbourne — and target legend Juan Manuel Fangio’s haul of five driver’s crowns.

Hamilton, 33, who relaxed by surfing and snowboarding in Europe, America and Japan, said: “I needed to recharge and balance recovery and getting ready for this season.

“Last season was a very tough year, physically, mentally and emotionally for everyone at the team so I’ve had the longest period off I can remember.

“It’s clear that something happens once you’ve won the title and in the week after winning it, my energy levels were not the same.

“When I was with my family in Colorado and in Japan, I did not have a single thought about motor racing.

"I had no one reminding me I was a four-time world champion so you enter normality.

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“Then I saw something about being up there with Fangio, which is exciting.

"I am in the best shape and this year, with the way the cars are, you need to be stronger.”

The highlight of his winter break was learning how to surf with pro Kelly Slater.

Hamilton added: “That was pretty awesome.”

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