Lewis Hamilton may find that his second year in F1 is a lot tougher than his first, according to veteran racer Sir Jackie Stewart.
He predicts that Lewis will face fierce expectations, a talented team-mate and a potentially under-performing car – problems that could all scupper his title hopes again.
And he believes that McLaren’s best bet for the new season is to put its collective head down and concentrate on the racing, rather than let itself be deflected by any more external issues
Sir Jackie told the Scottish Herald newspaper: “It’s not unusual for a new GP driver like Lewis to struggle a bit in the second season, because he is no longer an unknown quantity, he is in the position where people are expecting him to win every race he starts, and although I have no doubt that he will be competitive, I wonder whether he will have the car to take on Ferrari in 2008.
“It’s a curious thing: Lewis will think he can nail this year’s championship, because he came so close last time around, but that can make you push too hard, and, before you know it, little things can start going wrong which make the difference.
“I know that McLaren will insist it is business as usual, but they have had to deal with all kinds of external issues, including the racist abuse which Lewis faced in Barcelona and, no matter how professional you aim to be, these matters all deflect a team from their prime concern, which is putting together the best car.
“None of this changes my opinion that Lewis Hamilton is an extremely talented young man, who has the ability and the attributes to win the F1 title, but a lot of factors have changed this season and Kovalainen’s arrival at McLaren could mean that the shoe is on the other foot.”
He also said that he felt the Woking-based team had allowed its struggles with spying accusations, Fernando Alonso’s dissatisfaction and technical issues to sap the momentum from its 2007 world title bid.
“I wouldn’t write them off, but it might be hard to build up that momentum again.”