Loss of form baffles Lewis Hamilton

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton found himself unable to offer a simple explanation for his ongoing woes following yet more disappointment at Suzuka yesterday.

Hamilton was caught with a double whammy in the Japanese Grand Prix as he saw Sebastian Vettel deservedly become a two-time Formula One champion and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button take the race victory.

Not for the first time in recent weeks Hamilton appeared a dejected figure when he spoke post-race, at least doing so on this occasion given his no-show in Singapore after his bust-up with Felipe Massa.

The body language from the 26-year-old, his lack of a smile, would suggest there is something gnawing away at him in a season littered with incidents and penalties.

While he will not admit it, the fact he is now being comfortably beaten by Button, as has been the case in the last five races, will also hurt someone unaccustomed to being second best in a team he has made his own over the years.

It was suggested to Hamilton he looked tired, needed to refocus, that his issues were perhaps mental, that he was trying too hard, but he shook his head to all possible suggestions.

Instead, with brutal honesty, Hamilton was at a loss to understand the reasons behind a situation that has seen him outscored by Button 101 points to 44 in the last five races, other than sheer speed.

"You're all trying to put out solutions as to why I'm not going well, but there is no solution, there is no answer to it," said Hamilton.

"I don't know what the answer is, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't just jump to conclusions because I don't know what the answer is.

"I just wasn't quick enough. I was quick in qualifying, I wasn't quick in the race.

"I just struggled to keep pace with the guys at the front. That's the way it is."

The "not quick enough" line was uttered three times, appreciating that with Button winning at Suzuka there are no problems with the car, that it is down to himself.

When asked what he could do, Hamilton's response was terse.

"If I knew that then I'd be doing it," he said.

Another issue Hamilton is unlikely to admit to is that the dynamic between himself and Button has dramatically turned.

When Button signed for the team, doubts were raised over whether he would ever be able to compete alongside Hamilton, and for the most part that was true last season.

But with experience of the inner workings of McLaren has come an increase in self-belief that he can compete, with performances to match of late that have put him on a par with Sebastian Vettel.

Asked whether Hamilton has had to readjust given the change in Button, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "Jenson is proving to be a formidable team-mate.

"At the point we signed Jenson everybody said he must be mad, that he will get destroyed by Lewis.

"Jenson realised straightaway the natural talent and speed of Lewis, but he kept his head and decided 'I'll do what I do best', and that's thinking things through.

"He is also an incredibly quick driver as well, and now he is on an upward swing, but bear in mind he is five years ahead of Lewis in his professional development.

"I'm a lousy statistician, but it was about 110 races before Jenson won a grand prix. Comparatively to where Lewis is right now, he had not even won a race."

In his debut year in 2007, Hamilton came within a point of the title before becoming the youngest world champion a year later.

As Whitmarsh points out, with such a rise to prominence has come "massive expectations on very young shoulders".

"When you start and it's all very easy, then you have that pressure and expectation," added Whitmarsh.

"That takes some adjustment. He is dealing with that, and I am sure he will. He is a tough little fighter, and I'm sure he's going to come good very, very soon.

"Undoubtedly this has been an incredibly difficult season for him, and he is disappointed in that.

"But he could win next weekend. We all know it, and we all sense it, and suddenly it's the bounce back.

"He just has to keep his head. He is still a naturally very gifted, incredible racing driver, and it will come good, I'm quite sure of that."