At least Lewis Hamilton can laugh about his up-and-down season. "Last year, I won at Spa and failed to finish at Monza. I guess I'm looking to reverse that sequence!" he joked yesterday ahead of the Italian Grand Prix this weekend.
The Englishman, who added that he had moved on from the slight misjudgement he made in Belgium a fortnight ago that cost him any chance of victory, may be the only one laughing. Yet another brush with a rival – in that case, Kamui Kobayashi, whose Sauber he touched before spinning into dramatic retirement – has inevitably provoked fresh questions about his level of aggression.
"He is aggressive," Felipe Massa said. "It's OK," Kobayashi said of his rival's thrusting style. "In racing you need somebody being aggressive."
Predictably, the unforgiving Fernando Alonso pointedly ducked the question altogether, but as ever Mark Webber provided a rounded view. "No he's not that aggressive, he's OK. He's just had a tough run the last few races."
Hamilton, who lies fifth in the Championship, some 113 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel, is quick to acknowledge that he was at fault with Kobayashi, but has no intention of changing the way he drives. "I like my style," he said. "It's done me good. When you're on the knife-edge, sometimes it goes either way. Generally when I've been caught out it's when I've been on the aggressive side, but..."
He has analysed the Kobayashi incident, and it is clear he was surprised by the speed of the Japanese driver's Sauber: "We had too much downforce on our car; I had Kers and DRS engaged all the way up the straight from Eau Rouge, but when I thought I'd got the overtaking done and could head out after Vettel, he was still slipstreaming me and was clearly massively faster in a straight line. That's what caught me out."
It was not the first time it had happened to him, nor will it be the last. "There's no excuse or answer why we have been in the position we've been in this year," he said. "[We've had] Just a few more bad days in the office than good."
But in a race that McLaren team-mate Jenson Button predicts will be "spectacular" because drivers can use their DRS wings twice a lap, which should promote a rash of overtaking, as Monza used to provide before it became festooned with chicanes in 1972, Hamilton fancies his chances.
"I think qualifying's going to be pretty intense: we'll be 20 kmh faster at four key points of the circuit," he said. "That should be pretty exciting."