Tuesday 1st July 2008
Sir Jackie Stewart believes Lewis Hamilton would have been heading into Sunday's British Grand Prix still in charge of the Formula One World Championship but for a lack of clear communication.
Hamilton was on top of the world after his win in Monaco, but has since fallen from grace after mistakes in Canada and France.
Driving into the back of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the pit lane in Montreal resulted in a 10-place grid penalty for France, where his pursuit of points resulted in a drive-through penalty.
Three-time former world champion Stewart feels a wise, level head within the McLaren team would have served Hamilton well at both races, and seen him in the headlines for the right reasons.
But as Stewart admits, finding a pit-wall engineer willing to take on the role of psychologist is virtually impossible.
"One of the biggest and most important elements is communication, and there is enough of that going on," said Stewart, in his role as global ambassador for RBS at the Royal Automobile Club in London.
"Look at the accident in Montreal where there was so much publicity about Lewis, and with Nico (Rosberg), but not so much.
"How did that happen? Simply because there was so much distraction, so much interference going on in their young heads that they didn't hear the message 'the pit lane is closed, the red light is on'.
"Lewis had pulled away from the rest of the field and was enjoying a dream drive, whilst Nico, in a very competitive car, was possibly on for a podium.
"Then the Safety Car came out, and I don't care who you are, you are going to be upset and annoyed by that.
"When he came in, he needed to be talked down mentally, and that is almost a psychiatrist's job. That is where a coach comes in.
"The man who should be talking to him is a man who specialises in good, clear communication, who knows when to a put an emphasis on a certain word.
"You have to bring the guy's head down so when he accelerates out of there, you tell him, 'The red light is on, do you understand?'.
"The blame Lewis and Nico received was all on their shoulders, and that was wrong because the team should have ensured the message was clear."
With Hamilton seemingly offered little advice, he has been left to his own devices, and that has led to him being gung-ho rather than ice cool.
"The discipline of not making mistakes is what wins, because to finish first, first you have to finish," added Stewart.
"You look at my record - 27 wins from 99 races. I don't think I was necessarily that fast, it was just that I thought fairly carefully. You had to go quickly, but you couldn't go over the top.
"Drivers shouldn't go over the top, even now, but I think that has probably taken the world championship lead away from Lewis at the moment."
Stewart, like many others, points to the role Michael Schumacher enjoyed with technical director Ross Brawn at first Benetton, but more notably Ferrari.
"They had a unity of when to speak and when not to speak (during a race), and they talked a lot," remarked Stewart.
"Many of the teams today, they send the drivers to school on how to appear, how to be able to speak, and when to say this and that.
"But a racing team should be doing the same thing within their communication system. An engineer needs to be educated in that as much as the driver in my opinion.
"Teams might say they don't need that, but they do because that is there only contact with a driver whilst a number of things are going on."
Stewart has also urged Hamilton to avoid taking on the media, as he did ahead of the race in France following critical headlines in the wake of his Montreal mistake.
Stewart feels that will only detract from his performance on track, adding: "It's important not to become emotionally disturbed because when you are like that, you say things you wish you had never said.
"You certainly don't take on the media. You can't do it. There's no point. That's fact.
"You can maybe try to correct things, but not by telling them they are all rubbish.
"Lewis would not be here today doing what he is doing if he had not had the media on his side. It's as simple as that."