Lewis Hamilton carries the scars of being racially abused as a child, says his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Wolff says Hamilton, who could win a sixth world title in Mexico this weekend, is motivated by the abuse.
The Briton was F1's first black driver and has spoken about hoping to increase diversity in the sport.
"When Lewis was younger he was the only black kid among the white kids, and I know he was racially abused on the track," Wolff said.
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"If that happens to an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, it just leaves scars that will not go away.
"If, as a child, you have had to overcome abuse and discrimination, on one side it makes you a stronger personality but on the other side it also leaves scars.
"Today, Lewis has a good and mature perspective, but the scars are certainly there.
"That is not the only motivating factor for him - those scars are a witness of having survived."
Hamilton grew up on a council estate in Stevenage and said earlier this year he "wants to pave the way for drivers from a similar background to myself".
Hamilton was subjected to racist abuse by spectators during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona in 2008.
In March he called for stricter punishments in sport following the racist abuse of England footballers, while in 2011 he controversially said he might have been punished by stewards "because I'm black".
He remains the only black driver in F1.
"We have to acknowledge that we are not very diverse in Formula 1, and I have certainly learned through Lewis to accept that it is difficult to overcome discrimination from time to time," Wolff said.
"Exceptional personalities tend to polarise. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he has opinions, and by expressing them you will always run the risk of polarising. That is human nature."
On Friday, Hamilton was fastest in first practice for Mexican Grand Prix and will clinch the world title on Sunday if he out-scores team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points to seal his sixth world title.
How Hamilton can win the title in Mexico
- Win plus fastest lap with Bottas lower than third
- Win with Bottas lower than fourth
- Second plus fastest lap with Bottas lower than seventh
- Second with Bottas lower than seventh
- Second with Bottas lower than eighth if Bottas sets fastest lap
- Third and fastest lap with Bottas lower than eighth
- Third with Bottas lower than ninth