McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh insist that some of the criticism levelled at Lewis Hamilton this season has been unjust and has snowballed as a result of reports in the media.
Hamilton has been under fire for a number of incidents on-track this season, such as his collisions with Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado in Monaco and his coming together with team-mate Jenson Button in Montreal.
Former F1 title winner Niki Lauda in particular has been an outspoken critic of Hamilton at times this season but Whitmarsh insisted that much of the criticism faced by the 2008 title winner had been unfair.
“I have known Lewis since he was 11,” he told the official F1 website. “He is a phenomenal driver and a massively competitive individual. He is pretty hard on himself when he makes mistakes and very passionate about everything - not just his driving style. He definitely doesn't like being beaten so it's been a very tough season so far. He's been frustrated not being up there all the time and frankly some of it was simply down to misfortune.
“Inevitably the media have got on his back- he's too aggressive, he's too much of this and that, and then you have Niki Lauda and other people coming up with opinions and once that starts it's like a snowball. I know that Lewis is strong and capable enough to drive through that, to stay focused, develop the car, win races and then people will forget, because there is nothing like winning races.”
The team boss added that it was difficult to compare Hamilton with team-mate Jenson Button because of the differences in the way their F1 careers have panned out.
“We must not forget that Jenson is older, has more experience and has experienced very tough times, so I think that his career has made him very rounded,” he said. “Some people even say that he is too relaxed, but he demonstrated in Canada that he is there, he is determined and he wants to win desperately. Lewis's career has developed significantly differently.
“He [Hamilton] broke into Formula One in 2007 and he was on the podium for his first nine races, which will probably never be equalled. He could have won the championship in his first year; he did win it in his second year; and could have won in the third year. So he has never really experienced such a situation as he is in now. But he is smart and he will learn.
“He knows that he's made some mistakes, but he is under massive scrutiny. And when you are under such a level of scrutiny and you get out of the car and are hot and frustrated, and let me be frank, some parts of the media are very sympathetic and understanding, but other media, when they see such vulnerability they want to come in and challenge it. They want to prompt and elicit a passionate response, which is good for headlines but not always good for Lewis.
“He is learning that sometimes he is better off holding back, biting his lip and not saying what he thinks. We know how it goes. You have one interview and you stay calm, then comes the second and third and your emotions are riding higher and higher and eventually you say something that you regret. That is what happened to Lewis this year.”