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Brundle on Hamilton

Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC Formula One broadcaster

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton won the drivers' championship in 2008, his second season in F1

Lewis Hamilton answered a lot of questions by winning the 2008 world championship but as the opening Grand Prix of 2009 approaches, everyone is asking 'can he do it again?'

I strongly suspect that his occasional desperation and frustration behind the wheel will have largely evaporated. He often says that when he turns up at the first race with number one on the car it will all finally sink in.

Losing the title by one point in 2007 after having blown such a big advantage must have been gnawing away at him, and the fear of losing it again in 2008 was a massive pressure for such a young man.

Now, at the age of 24, he can flourish and develop without the need to prove his ability.

Hamilton had some stand-out drives last season, his victory in the wet at Silverstone being one of them, where he just seemed to be in a different race to everybody else. Finding extra grip in treacherous conditions is a natural sixth sense very few are blessed with.

Will he start believing in his own press, will the stardom get to him?

Turkey was another interesting race where he split the two Ferraris in a McLaren that was not really fast enough to do that on the day.

Historically, however, it is very difficult to win back-to-back championships - only eight different drivers have managed it in the history of F1.

It is almost as if champions lift themselves onto another mental level to win a title and then need to take a breather.

Lewis has publicly admitted that is an issue and his mindset is to approach 2009 wanting to win the championship, rather than as the reigning champ.

He has recognised that he's got to be fitter, sharper, calmer and wiser to conquer the best in the World again.

The big question is, will he start believing in his own press, will the stardom get to him?

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was fastest in testing, Jerez, 12 February 2009

I do not sense that he has been out and about at riotous parties or buying boats, planes and helicopters, in fact he seemed more seduced by the lifestyle in 2007.

He has been a good world champion for the sport and has played the part, said the right things, and been very visible over the winter in F1's off season.

There are still a couple of things Lewis needs to fine tune from what I observe.

His head can still go to pieces; that's his Achilles' heel as we saw last season in Fuji.

He had the championship in his pocket at the Japanese Grand Prix but when Kimi Raikkonen beat him off the line, he just blitzed it at Turn One and got it all wrong.

The instinctive racer in him created havoc and threw the race away. He's got to stop that little crazy person on his shoulder taking control in the heat of the moment.

He does not quite follow the Alain Prost or Michael Schumacher school of winning the championship. They set about the season intent only on winning the title, which means you collect the maximum points realistically available instead of fighting tooth and nail in every braking zone.

Hamilton still races every corner, and as far as he is concerned it is wheel-to-wheel racing and he will do what he wants. His racer's instinct is what makes him so good, and of course to lose that would be a disaster. It's the judgement calls at critical times that he must fine tune.

Exclusive interview: Hamilton chats to BBC Sport

There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance and he bumps right up against it without understanding why.

This approach doesn't always make him universally popular. That is OK as long as what goes around comes around and you can take as good as you give.

Amongst the rivals hoping to dish it out to Hamilton, are Ferrari's Raikkonen and Renault's Fernando Alonso, both past world champions, Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who lost the title by a point to Hamilton, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

You cannot help but think that despite his natural speed Raikkonen is just passing through the sport; he does not send out the signal that he wants to elevate himself to being the best ever.

Alonso is a bit more three-dimensional, he really drives Renault's programme whereas I suspect Hamilton needs more help from McLaren to see the big picture.

There is always one driver who is the megastar of their generation - I would put money on Hamilton being that person

Martin Brundle

Massa is a percentage man for Ferrari, when he is on fire, he is brilliant but on other days he's ordinary.

Kubica has got a raw confidence, speed, and determination and he can develop that.

Vettel is another talent with enormous upside potential in his development.

But I think it is Hamilton who can be the greatest of this era. He has stability at McLaren, blinding speed, sublime car control, and so much scope to improve.

There is always one driver who is the megastar of their generation.


Hamilton should be that person just as Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Ayrton Senna and many others were before him.

But we are talking tiny percentages here, and he will have to keep one eye in the mirror because his main rivals won't be too far behind in the fight for the 2009 title.

Martin Brundle was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.

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see also
F1 on the BBC in 2009
24 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton expects tough F1 battle
17 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
F1 testing photos
04 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
F1 teams face testing times
21 Jan 09 |  Formula 1

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