He's been on pole position three times and is only 13 points off the world championship lead, but he hasn't won a single race while Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg have. Yet Lewis Hamilton looks happier than he has since he became champion in 2008.
So what gives? Is this just another oddity in this quirky Formula One season? Or is there another reason for the super-chilled persona – such a contrast to the haunted and beaten man in Korea last year? His regenerated relationship with singer Nicole Scherzinger has made a big difference to his personal equilibrium, but there's another reason why all the planets once again seem to be aligning for him.
"I was waiting to try and get all the pieces of the puzzle into the right place, getting my life into gear," he said in Montreal. "I've had a lot of bad years. There were certain things that weren't right. It took a lot longer to get them sorted. I think probably the relationship with my family has made the biggest difference."
You don't need second sight to postulate that there may have been a reconciliation between him and his father Anthony, who managed him before switching in 2010 to looking after promising Scot Paul di Resta. That left the way clear for Hamilton to enter into a management contract with Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, which was panned last year when he surrounded himself with celebrity friends. This year they've been replaced by a day-to-day manager with a low-profile manner. What Didier Coton doesn't know about looking after drivers isn't worth knowing; ask his former charge Mika Hakkinen.
"I've been working very hard to put the right people around me," Hamilton says. "Simon is fantastic. I'm really, really happy working with him and the team he's helped build around me have been great. Definitely Didier has been a lot of help. He has a lot of experience how to be around drivers and stay out of the way, whilst being there at the same time."
Such is the impregnability of this new comfort zone that Hamilton is able to wait patiently for things to come his way in 2012. He's made a conscious effort to be consistent, and denies that it's frustrating to see lesser lights taking centre stage.
"There's a lot of races I've done in my life and even ones that I've won, where the actual race hasn't been perfect; I've made mistakes but got away with it and not always been 100 per cent happy. Afterwards when I've looked at the race, I realise I could have been better," he reflected. "But genuinely this year I've finished all my races feeling I've got absolutely everything out of the car. I've been well measured, haven't made any silly manoeuvres. So I've been a lot happier with the driving and whilst we haven't won I can leave the circuit and see what we can improve on in the next race, and be comfortable."
He is happy now to skim over the dramas of McLaren pit stops that have surely cost him points that no driver can afford to lose. And he's in no rush to decide what he'll do by the end of the year when his contract runs out. Nor does he expect this season's title race to turn predictable any time soon.
"My guess is as good as yours on that," he suggests. "Someone might figure it out, and I hope it's us! Consistency is the key. But it's much easier to say the word consistent than to be it."
Calm, considered and consistent... Hamilton has wrought a remarkable change in himself at a time when the unpredictability is getting to his rivals. Right now he's unruffled, and neither looks nor sounds like a man with the remotest intention of quitting the team he grew up in.
Vettel snatches pole in Montreal
Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix despite an heroic last-lap effort from Lewis Hamilton which took the McLaren within millimetres of the wall on the exit to the final corner, but not close enough to the Red Bull champion's time. Where Vettel clocked 1min 13.784sec, Hamilton had to be content with beating Fernando Alonso to the front row with 1min 14.087sec. Jenson Button's hopes of starting better than 10th were stymied by further mechanical problems, but Scot Paul di Resta impressed again with eighth place.
Qualifying grid: 1. S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1min 13.784sec; 2. L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:14.087; 3. F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:14.151; 4. M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:14.346; 5. N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:14.411; 6. F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:14.465; 7. R Grosjean (Fr) Lotus 1:14.645; 8. P Di Resta (GB) Force India 1:14.705; 9. M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:14.812; 10. J Button (GB) McLaren 1:15.182; 11. K Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1:14.688; 12. K Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus 1:14.734; 13. N Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:14.748; 14. D Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso 1:15.078; 15. S Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:15.156; 16. B Senna (Br) Williams 1:15.170; 17. P Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:15.231; 18. H Kovalainen (Fin) Caterham 1:16.263; 19. V Petrov (Rus) Caterham 1:16.482; 20. J-E Vergne (Fr) Toro Rosso 1:16.602; 21. P de la Rosa (Sp) HRT 1:17.492; 22. T Glock (Ger) Marussia 1:17.901; 23. C Pic (Fr) Marussia 1:18.255; 24. N Karthikeyan (Ind) HRT 1:18.330.Reuse content