Lewis Hamilton underlined the frustrations he has suffered throughout the 2011 F1 season by admitting that McLaren team-mate Jenson Button has 'done a better job' than him all year.
Button currently leads Hamilton by three places and 17 points in the closely-fought battle to end the year as runner-up to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, and has finished ahead of his fellow Briton seven times in 14 races, including each of the last four rounds. While Hamilton held the upper-hand earlier in the season, where Button only recorded the better result twice prior to his victory in Canada, the tables have definitely turned as the 2008 world champion's campaign gets increasingly weighed down by controversy on and off the track.
Last Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix was marked by a clash with Felipe Massa that left the Briton facing a front wing change and ensuing penalty for causing the incident, while Massa suffered a puncture that ruined his race and left the Brazilian fuming in the press pit after the chequered flag. The incident was not the only one in which Hamilton has been involved in 2011, with others - including another with Massa in Monaco - accounting for his races in Monaco, Montreal and Spa-Francorchamps, while ill-advised comments have dogged him throughout the year, especially the notorious 'maybe it's because I'm black' jibe that followed his visit to the stewards in Monte Carlo.
Having shied away from confrontation after the race in Singapore, his latest quotes offer partial confirmation of suggestions that he is allowing himself to be riled by the better performances of others on track, notably Vettel - who is seen as F1's 'other' young charger - and Button, who Hamilton no doubt expected to be able to relegate to 'number two' status at McLaren.
Speaking after completing a demonstration run in front of enthralled Indian F1 fans in Bangalore ahead of next month's inaugural grand prix in the country, the Briton conceded that he needed to concentrate on raising his game.
"I think, for me now, [my focus] is just to find my ground and improve on the results that we've had in the last four races," he admitted to Reuters
after coming home fifth under the lights of Marina Bay, "Jenson's done an incredible job - I feel he's done a better job all season really so, even if I did a better job in the next five races, it doesn't mean a lot to me. It's through a whole year."
Against general expectation, Button is now the only driver who can mathematically deny Vettel a second straight F1 crown, although the German only needs a single point to accomplish his goal, with five races remaining on the 2011 schedule. Instead, Button will focus on extending a run of four straight podium finishes, stretching back to his second victory of the year in Hungary, in order to become the first driver to beat Hamilton on equal terms since the McLaren protégé joined the Woking team in the top flight in 2007.
Heikki Kovalainen failed to match the younger Briton in two seasons as team-mates, while Hamilton had the upper hand on Button in their first year together in 2010, leaving Fernando Alonso - with whom Hamilton endured a notoriously prickly debut campaign - as the only driver to match him in championship terms. The pair ended the 2007 season tied on points, but saw Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen steal the title at the final round.