Former Formula One world champions Damon Hill and Niki Lauda have said that they can see Lewis Hamilton missing out on the world title for a second time if he fails to rein in the impetuosity that cost him vital points in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
The Briton, who went into the race with the chance of securing his first crown if results went his way, left with his lead over Felipe Massa reduced from seven points to five after failing to score following two incidents on the opening laps.
Having lost the lead to Kimi Raikkonen off the line, Hamilton attempted a rash overtaking move at turn one, dropping the top four cars down the order as he, Raikkonen, Massa and Heikki Kovalainen were all forced wide, and then clashed with Massa on lap two as the Brazilian attempted to re-pass the McLaren. Both Hamilton and the Ferrari driver were handed penalties that dropped them to the tail of the field, but Massa managed to recover to eighth, and was then promoted to seventh when Sebastien Bourdais was penalised.
With a sense of déjà vu
pervading the paddock as Hamilton and McLaren appear to wobble with the title in sight, both Hill and Lauda have warned that the Briton needs to refocus if he is to avoid a repeat of last year's disappointment. In his rookie season, Hamilton approached the final two rounds, in China and Brazil, with a 17-point lead over eventual champion Kimi Raikkonen, but ended up losing the title by a single marker.
"Lewis is impatient to win that first title, but you can't force it," 1996 champion Hill BBC Radio 5 Live
, "There's no question about his speed or ability, he just needs to stay cool and let it happen.
"It's a mark of Lewis's career - he's always been very keen to get the job done and move on, and you need that impatience, but it can sometimes trip you up if you're not wary. Sunday's race was a lesson, and Lewis learns very quickly. He'll look back and think maybe it would've been better to settle into it more and got his rhythm going."
Despite having had his own heated rivalry with the German, Hill suggested that Hamilton needed to develop the kind of mental focus that helped Michael Schumacher to take seven titles.
"Even Michael had his moments, but you could rest assured that he would usually bring it home," the Briton said, "He had a very cool head, an ability to detach himself and not let that impatience get the better of him. If Lewis keeps a cool head, then he'll be fine. I think he will get the job done."
Lauda, meanwhile, told n-tv.de
that he had been dismayed to see Hamilton making the same sort of mistake that cost him a title shot in 2007.
"I am disappointed with Lewis," the three-time champion sighed, "He threw away the championship last year in the same way, with absolutely unnecessary risks."