Hamilton's nightmare season
13 October 2011, 11:31
Seoul, Korea - The mysterious disappearance of Lewis Hamilton's race pace has the McLaren driver stumped as he heads for the Korean GP.
The 2008 Formula 1 World champion cut an unusually subdued figure after the Japanese GP at Suzuka. He was struggling to understand where his pace had gone while team mate Jenson Button celebrated a victory.
Hamilton missed out on pole after crossing the line too late to get in a second lap and then had another collision with Ferrari rival Felipe Massa. He could have blamed some of his woes on a slow puncture but instead, while talking to British reporters with little animation, he was hard on himself and also apparently lost for an explanation.
"We've got far bigger problems than that to worry about in the championship," he warned. "I think you're all trying to come up with solutions as to why I'm not going well, but there is no solution, there is no answer to it.
"I don't know what the answer is, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't just jump to conclusions. I just wasn't quick enough. I was quick in qualifying, I just wasn't quick in the race."
Hamilton has had a nightmare 2011, including calls to face race stewards and being criticised for what the media call his aggressive driving style. Since his debut in 2007 Hamilton has never ended a championship behind his team mate on points.
There is a suspicion that Button's increasing popularity and success in a team once seen as being built around the protege Hamilton is starting to unsettle the younger driver more than he would like to admit. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh indicated that Hamilton was fighting a number of battles, some of them psychological, but expected him to fight back in Korea.
YOUNGER THAN BUTTON
Whitmarsh said: "His form will return. There's nobody in this team that doesn't believe in Lewis Hamilton. "Every international athlete has highs and lows; this has been a difficult time."
The McLaren chief pointed out that Hamilton was five years younger than Button, who had been through plenty of difficult seasons.
"We have these massive expectations and Lewis has massive expectations on very young shoulders," he said. "When you start and it's very easy, then when you have that pressure and expectation, it takes some adjustment. He is dealing with that, and I am sure he will. He is a tough little fighter"
"So I'm sure he's going to come good very, very soon."