Two Formula 1 experts have expressed their fears that world champion-elect Lewis Hamilton could 'self-destruct' in his bid to 'alienate' himself from his rivals – as the Briton's team principal admitted the 2008 title favourite has an 'attitude'.
Hamilton's 'self-destruct' button was all-too evident at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway last weekend, when in attempting to immediately recover from a poor getaway when the lights went out, the McLaren-Mercedes star left his braking impossibly late into the first corner, setting off a chain reaction of events that would ultimately lead to him walking away from the race empty-handed – and with a reduced margin at the top of the drivers' table.
Some are pointing to uncomfortable echoes of the same stage last year, when nerves, youthful impetuosity and a desire to win races seemingly at any cost got the better of the then F1 rookie and caused him to cede a 17-point advantage over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to lose the crown at the last gasp in Brazil.
As Hamilton once again sits on pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend – scene of arguably his greatest error in 2007, when he beached his car in the pit-lane gravel trap after stubbornly insisting on continuing to battle Raikkonen for the race lead on severely worn tyres and, crucially, when he had no need to, in so doing throwing away ten points that would ultimately prove to be vital – there are concerns that history may just be set to repeat itself.
“Lewis doesn't have to win,” stressed 1982 F1 World Championship runner-up John Watson in an interview with the BBC
. “He just needs to finish second to [Felipe] Massa, but that is one part of his personality he has to work on.
“He has yet to fully establish his ability to deal with the greatest level of stress and pressure. Part of that is that he has only ever been in a winning car.
“What I'm concerned about is he seemed [in Japan] to delete his brain from its normal programme and put it onto self-destruct. It's all very well to drive like [Ayrton] Senna and [Michael] Schumacher, but they were a bit further down the road when they did it.
“The thing that's going to beat Lewis is he's not just got to race Massa, he's racing the entire field. He needs to stop sending those signals out [where he has] to have a field of competitors, 18 of whom are against him. He must be a target for everyone to make it as difficult as possible for him, and he's brought it all on himself.”
The Ulsterman – now heavily involved in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport – added that, in his view, there could be no question about Hamilton's 'flair, talent and courage', but there remain doubts, he argued, about the 23-year-old's mental strength, describing his driving at the start of the race in Fuji as 'stupid, ill-judged and immature'.