After a beginning of the season that has arguably rewarded him with far less than his performances have deserved in terms of on-track results, 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is fully motivated and fully capable of regaining the top step of the podium in Monaco this weekend, contends McLaren-Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Indisputably the most prolific overtaker of the campaign to-date, Hamilton's indefatigable spirit and never-say-die approach have endeared him to fans in F1 2010 – and occasionally stirred up the wrath of his fellow drivers, with his aggressive passing manoeuvres at times being judged to be right on the limit of acceptability.
Quick in each of the five opening grands prix, the 25-year-old has only been made to work so hard due to circumstances either beyond his control or of his own making. His struggles, indeed, have been in stark contrast with the serene march to the top of the drivers' standings of team-mate, compatriot and title-winning successor Jenson Button – whose inspired tactical decisions in both Australia and China have seen him become the only double-winner so far.
Whilst they have adopted different approaches and have in some ways re-enacted the parable of the tortoise and the hare, Whitmarsh is full of praise for the efforts of both of his charges, with their respective points totals enabling McLaren to arrive in the Principality atop both championship tables.
“Lewis and Jenson have both driven brilliantly this year and both deserve to have amassed more points than they have done,” the Englishman told Crash.net
, speaking during a special Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In Session. “They have had a bit of misfortune, and both could have got better results than they have done.
“Jenson has made I think some very good calls, has two wins to his name and is leading the championship. Lewis has driven just outstandingly – prior to last weekend he had made 32 competitive overtaking moves in the first four races, which is unprecedented. Some of that is down to his brilliance; some of it is where he has had to come through the field. Clearly he had a fantastically well-deserved second place that wasn't quite achieved last weekend [in Barcelona] – had he had that, I'm sure he would be slightly more content.
“Lewis is high on self-belief, though. He has raced at Monaco in F1, GP2 and F3 – and won in all three of them. I don't think anyone doubts his motivation to get a result this weekend. The Red Bull is certainly very quick, and the Ferrari and Mercedes look strong as well, which is making F1 just as it should be – very, very difficult to win races, and an even bigger challenge to win the championship, which obviously is what we are trying to do.”
Turning his attentions fully towards the action that lies ahead around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality – a favoured McLaren stomping ground over the last two-and-a-half decades – Whitmarsh went on to predict a weekend full of surprises, echoing the well-documented fears of a chaotic qualifying session due to the discrepancies in speed between the front-runners and the 2010 newcomers. Regardless of whether or not the anticipated precipitation arrives, however, he remains confident the Woking-based outfit will be in the mix for glory once more come rain or shine.
“I think Q1 will be very, very difficult for all the cars,” added the 52-year-old – who had been an advocate of a split-qualifying session in Monte Carlo. “The new teams' cars have been between six-and-seven seconds a lap slower so far, and in Monaco when you try to create a gap ahead, you've got cars coming behind you, so you can't really back off. It's a circuit where you are always likely to catch other cars, and it's very difficult for them to get out of the way even if they want to.