Lewis Hamilton’s ruinous fall from grace as a result of nightmare races in Canada and France will be short-lived, former world champion Damon Hill insists.
Hamilton takes over from team-mate Heikki Kovalainen on the third and final day of testing at Silverstone today as he prepares to get his championship back on the rails after disastrous showings in the last two races.
The Briton’s pit-lane calamity in Montreal which resulted in an onslaught of criticism from the press dashed his chances of victory not only in Canada but also at the following race in France where he was dropped to tenth place on the grid as a result of his infringement. This allied with a drive-through penalty for cutting a chicane dropped the McLaren ace out of the money for the second time in a row.
Failure to score strongly at his home grand prix next week for which there are unbelievably high expectations would leave the Briton dangerously out of touch with the championship leaders; he is already ten points adrift of Felipe Massa heading into circuits that have traditionally favoured Ferrari.
“There has been a little bit of a wobble,” acknowledges 1996 world champion and BRDC president Damon Hill. “I think it’s to be expected, nobody else can really help him there,” he adds.
Hill, who had to cope with his own fair share of ups-and-downs en-route to the world championship in 1996, reckons Hamilton’s latest run of bad-luck and poor form is merely a phase: a hurdle that the McLaren ace will overcome necessarily as part of his development as a driver and be stronger for it.
“He’s on his own and it’s something he has to go through,” says Hill. “He’ll pull himself through it and he’ll get stronger. I think that it’s a phase that drivers seem to go through. Its part of the growing process I think in becoming a champion.”
Drawing on his own experiences of fighting for the world championship and battling with the interest and expectations of the British press no more so than at the height of the speculation about his contract renewal with Williams Hill has warned Hamilton to concentrate on what he can achieve on the track putting everything that happens off it, firmly out of mind.
“Just focus on the driving,” advised Hill. “There’s so much that goes on that’s beyond your control that you are wise to just focus on what you can control – and that is how you drive and how you do you job.”
“The rest of it is in the lap of the gods, and that is part of the fun actually. That is part of the excitement as there is only so much you can control. The rest of it is going to be sorted an hour and a half after the start.”
Locked in a battle of his own to secure the future of the British Grand Prix, Hill admits that should Lewis Hamilton charge to victory in front his home crowd next week, it would be an enormous fillip both for Britain and Hamilton himself.
“It would be an enormous boost,” enthused Hill. “It would be a tremendous thing to happen because there would be such a good feel factor about it for a British Driver to win the British Grand Prix and for Lewis who’s trying to fight for the world championship.”
But the former Williams driver warned that it would not be the be-all or end-all of Hamilton’s championship campaign: “You know its only a stay of execution,” he joked. “It’s only just until the next one or two weeks away – you start again, every time the clock goes back to zero after you’ve won a race. You don’t go straight to the next one automatic victor.”