Sir Jackie Stewart may be one of Lewis Hamilton's biggest supporters, but even the three-time world champion was forced to admit that his fellow Briton's opening corner move at Fuji was misguided - and only served to provide ammunition for his critics.

Stewart went further, to, suggesting that cracks were once again beginning to show in Hamilton's usually cool demeanour as he once again finds himself in the heat of a title battle with time running out on the 2008 season.

The McLaren driver went into Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix holding a seven-point advantage over nearest rival Felipe Massa but, having qualified on pole, lost out to the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen as the lights went out. Instead of opting for a conservative strategy that would likely have yielded a healthy points haul with Massa back on row three, Hamilton instead decided to try and wrest back the lead at turn one, causing a melee that dropped himself and his rivals down through the field.

Hamilton was penalised for the move, as was Massa for a later, clumsy, attempt to pass the Briton, but the Brazilian's ability to gain a couple of points, albeit in contentious circumstances, allowed him to close in on Hamilton with two races to run.

"Like Singapore, the Japanese Grand Prix was, to say the least, unusual, because the first few laps were so aggressive," Stewart reflected on the RBS Sport website.

"Looking at Lewis Hamilton's drive, this was not his finest hour. There's an old adage [that] 'you can't win the race in the first corner, but you can lose it', and that's exactly what occurred. I suspect that Lewis, despite all his calmness outside of the cockpit, did not carry out his (and McLaren's) game plan to secure the drivers' and constructors' championships.

"His approach in that first corner was slightly arrogant to other drivers. He braked far too late, ran deep into the run-off area, almost collided with Kimi Raikkonen, and was later punished by the stewards with a drive-through penalty. That was the 'make it happen' moment of the race, but Lewis didn't make it happen for himself - he made it happen for everybody else by taking himself out of contention."

While many felt that Hamilton's penalty was unjustified, Stewart again pointed to the Briton's lack of experience as causing problems in such situations.

"Weaving in and out of other cars, as Lewis did in the run to first corner, puts other drivers in the position of having to avoid his manoeuvre, and exposes Lewis to risk from their actions," he reasoned, "If someone else locks a wheel or has a problem, both they and Lewis might pay the price.

"Very few drivers, even at the height of Formula One, stay clinically cool mentally at the start of a race. And the Japanese race demonstrated that Lewis is still very young, in only his second season. Although he comes across as very cool in interviews, he doesn't always have the same level of mind management when he's racing."

Before the weekend, Hamilton's aggressive driving style had come in for further criticism from his rivals, notably Robert Kubica, who finished second in the race and continues to hold slim championship ambitions. With Hamilton's Fuji antics likely to ensure the matter is debated once again at this weekend's Chinese GP, Stewart warns that the Briton needs to be careful.

"Lewis can still win the championship, but not if he drives the last two races the way he drove in Japan," he admitted, "It was rather ironic that Fernando Alonso won [as, last year,] he was totally put off by Hamilton's raw speed and huge natural talent - the only time I've seen Alonso display weakness in his career so far.

"Over the last two races, however, his experience and maturity have been obvious. Lewis, on the other hand - because he's privileged to be in one of the top teams at such a young age - has had to fast track his learning curve in order to deliver for all concerned. This can be very impressive, but it can cause havoc on other occasions."


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