Lewis Hamilton says he is “enjoying” some aspects of Formula 1’s enforced break because it has given him time to refresh and revitalise himself.
The 2020 season is on hold until July because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hamilton, said: “There have been times in the past five years that I thought a rest would be good for body and mind.
“For an athlete in their prime, it’s never a good thing to step away for a year but we have been handed a part-sabbatical, which I am enjoying.”
The 35-year-old added: “I feel fresher and healthier than ever.”
The world drivers’ champion, who will be bidding for a record-equalling seventh title once the season starts up, said not racing had been “a shock to the system” but that the lockdown was “almost a blessing on one side because it gives you even more appreciation for the things you love and do”.
He added: “And it has given me more energy and inspiration and determination to keep delivering and keep working with this great team. So I’m excited for the future.”
Hamilton, who was speaking in a video interview published by his Mercedes team, added that he had been using the unusual amount of free time to have long conversations with friends, to try to learn French and to focus on honing his fitness.
“The struggle for everyone I think is keeping your mind clear. Some days you’re sluggish and other days you’re positive,” he said.
“But the key is trying to remain centred, find things you enjoy doing that you perhaps haven’t had time to do in the past.
“Don’t waste this time. That’s a really important thing – not to waste this time.”
He added: “I miss driving. But you have to look at the positives. And if you look around the world, the skies are clearer, people are probably appreciating this time and their families and relationships more.
“There are so many things to come out of this and I really hope we can all grow from this experience and that it passes soon.”
Hamilton has not been joining his colleagues in online racing, saying he is “not really interested in the driving-simulator racing” and that he “doesn’t find it personally of any benefit whatsoever”.
But he said he had been trying to beat his own lap times on a racing simulator game and that he had played Call of Duty online with fellow F1 drivers Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc.
‘Empty stands leave an empty feeling’
F1 is planning to resume the season in Austria on the first weekend in July, then stage a series of races in Europe, all behind closed doors, before moving on to Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.
Hamilton said the idea of racing with no crowds “gave me a really empty feeling because the fans make the race”.
But he said he accepted that a return to action would be a boost for people at a difficult time.
“What’s great is I’m getting messages from people around the world who are struggling during this period because they’re not getting to watch sport,” Hamilton said.
“And it just shows how significant sport is in people’s lives. It brings us all together and it’s so exciting and captivating.
“I don’t know how exciting it’s going to be for people watching it on TV but it’ll be better than nothing.
“For us, it’s going to be like a test day, probably even worse than a test day in a sense, because on a test day there are not a huge amount of people come to watch in Barcelona but there are still some, and here you’re going to have no-one in the crowd.
“But racing is racing and I don’t think any of us have had enough time to really truly unleash the potential of our cars so I’m excited to get back in.”