Lewis Hamilton 'just can't take the pressure' and both he and his McLaren-Mercedes team are 'showing some nerves' as the tense 2008 Formula 1 campaign reaches its most pivotal phase.
That is the opinion of former Sauber team owner Peter Sauber, as the British world championship leader prepares to discover today whether he will carry a one-point or seven-point lead into the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix this coming weekend – dependent upon the outcome of the appeal into the penalty that demoted him from first to third place in the Belgian Grand Prix earlier this month.
The 23-year-old has repeatedly protested his innocence over the incident [see separate story – click here
], one that saw him cut across the grass at the Bus-Stop chicane at Spa-Francorchamps as he duelled energetically and entertainingly with the Ferrari of defending F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen in the race's closing stages.
Though he subsequently handed the lead back to his Finnish adversary once more, Hamilton was deemed by FIA stewards to have gained an unfair advantage from the manoeuvre and penalised by 25 seconds, gifting victory to chief title rival and Raikkonen's Maranello team-mate Felipe Massa.
“Both McLaren and Hamilton are showing some nerves,” Sauber told the Credit Suisse emagazine
. “Hamilton was declared as this year's star and world champion even before the season got going. This is in keeping with McLaren's style, but of course it's not true.
“That's a huge burden for a young man to bear and now, in one way or another, it has taken its toll. He just can't take the pressure.”
The 64-year-old also admitted that – like Hamilton's former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso [see separate story – click here
] – he would rather see Massa lift the laurels at season's end. Should he keep his Belgian 'win', the Brazilian will arrive in Singapore with five successes to his name thus far in 2008 to Hamilton's four. No other driver has prevailed more than twice.
“If I follow my heart, I would say Massa because Ferrari obviously means a lot more to me,” confessed Sauber, whose privateer team was powered by the Scuderia for nine seasons from 1997 to 2005, and who actually dropped the São Paulo native at the end of the 2002 campaign before re-hiring him just over a year later.