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Hamilton lays on the charm after Suzuka storm

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Formula One - Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit, Japan- 9/10/16. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton of Britain gestures to fans during the drivers parade. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Formula One - Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit, Japan- 9/10/16. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton of Britain gestures to fans during the drivers parade. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Alan Baldwin

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton kept his calm and laid on the charm as he faced a packed U.S. 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.

The Mercedes man had also walked out of a post-qualifying media briefing in response to "disrespectful" criticism.

In Austin, the Briton 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.

Only Grosjean, a Microsoft ambassador, felt any embarrassment at holding a rival brand up for the cameras.

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. Think it was a blocking spree," he said.

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 German team mate Nico Rosberg, now 33 points clear with four races remaining, wins the championship.

"Try to take it like a man," said Hamilton. "You can't win them all.

"I am in the position right now where there is still a lot of points available so I will give it everything I have 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."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)


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