Having already had his mental state and end-of-season approach called into question by three former Formula 1 World Champions, Lewis Hamilton has now come in for criticism from his rivals too over his patchy Japanese Grand Prix performance last weekend.
Hot on the heels of Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill and Niki Lauda's fears that he is on-track to throw the title away in much the same manner as he did this time twelve months ago [see separate story – click here
], and Robert Kubica's description of his driving style as being at times 'too much', 'aggressive' and 'dangerous' [see separate story – click here
], Hamilton has been challenged by two more competitors about his overly-assertive on-track manners following his desperately late-braking into the first corner at Fuji Speedway as he attempted to atone for a tardy getaway from the lights.
“What Hamilton did at the start at Fuji was not clean,” underlined reigning F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who was forced off the track by the Briton locking his wheels and almost slithering into the Ferrari into turn one. “He didn't give me a chance to turn into the corner.
“You have to learn how to find braking points when you are six-years-old in go-karts. Obviously you should know how it goes at this level.”
“Hamilton makes up his own rules,” added Kubica, speaking to Sport Bild
, “particularly at the starts.”
“In the next driver meeting, Jarno Trulli will ask [Hamilton] why he blocked him for two laps when he was a lap down,” added Toyota's Timo Glock – who also found himself on the receiving end of the McLaren-Mercedes star's aggression in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last month – in an interview with German broadcaster RTL
. “Jarno lost one-and-a-half to two seconds, because Hamilton would not obey the blue flags.”
Forced onto the defensive once more, Hamilton has stressed that he is not beginning to crack under the weight of pressure that this time last year saw him all-but ditch his hopes of clinching the crown in the Shanghai pit-lane gravel trap as he insisted on fighting Raikkonen for the lead of the Chinese Grand Prix when he didn't need to.
“They are my opponents,” the 23-year-old told German newspaper Bild
on the subject of his aggrieved rivals, “and if you are going for the championship as I am, it has to be expected that your rivals try to put maximum pressure on you even off the track.
“I don't feel like I've hurt anyone; I have good friends among the drivers and I respect them all. I am also sure that they respect me as well, but clearly not everyone is going to publicly support me, and why should you praise your opponents?”
As to comments attributed to him earlier this year in which he is alleged to have rated himself better than his F1 hero, the late, great three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, Hamilton was unequivocal.
“I never said that,” he underlined. “I definitely wouldn't say it about Ayrton because he's my favourite driver.
“I think he's the best driver there ever was and, to this day, I still don't believe anyone would beat him. If I could achieve just a small part of what he's achieved, it would be a dream for me.”