Is Lewis Hamilton being hampered by the 2011 Formula 1 rulebook?

By Mark HughesBBC F1 commentary box producer

Lewis Hamilton has been involved in a litany of on-track errors this year - but could they have their roots in the 2011 F1 regulations?

Hamilton's Singapore clash with Felipe Massa was another in a series of incidents this year for the 2008 world champion.

This has been by far the most error-strewn season of the Briton's five-year F1 career. It has got many within the paddock wondering if frustration is clouding his judgement - or if his off-track life is costing him focus.

Any such explanations can only ever be conjecture but something is clearly not working.

Perhaps another thing to consider is that the 2011 configuration of F1, with its DRS passing zones, Kers and variable tyre performance, is just not suited to Hamilton's instinctive approach.

Could it be that the very qualities that made him the best overtaker in the business under the previous regulations - when passing was much more difficult - are now the very things that are landing him in trouble?

Formula 1 has been wrestling with the challenge of how to encourage overtaking since the 1990s. Until this year, all attempts at curing the problem with technical regulation changes have been ineffective.

Before 2011, overtaking in F1 was exceptionally difficult as, whenever a driver got close to the car ahead, aerodynamic turbulence would ensure his car was slower than the car he was trying to pass.

Very few drivers seemed consistently able to pull off passing moves, although exceptions such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Juan Pablo Montoya spring to mind. They were guys who seemed to have a different sense of the narrative of a move and understood the limits of depth perception and braking feel.

Hamilton was in this lineage.

Many times these qualities along with a boldness of spirit allowed him to pull off some beautiful moves.

The one on Kimi Raikkonen into the first chicane at Monza in 2007 was a prime example. It is the biggest braking point on the entire calendar - 220mph down to 65mph - and is done with the least downforce. Hamilton pulled out from Raikkonen's slipstream so late the Finn was caught unawares, enabling Hamilton to charge down the inside with his brakes on the point of locking as he turned into the corner.

The speed was still slightly too fast for the turn, so Hamilton induced oversteer to scrub the excess speed away. That was perhaps the most dramatic example of his then-unique ability to find moves that were invisible to others. He did it regularly from the opening seconds of his very first grand prix.

Now those types of moves are getting him into trouble in this era where pretty much anyone can pass anyone else depending on the state of their tyres - or which of them has got an activated DRS wing.

It has become a tactical game of where to use the Kers to get within DRS range, of how to time your moves not to the millisecond but to the point at which your tyres are better than your opponent's.

A case in point was at Monza two weeks ago. Hamilton's all-out attack on Michael Schumacher was frustrated by the German's defence, only for Jenson Button to pull off the move at the moment his tyres were still in good shape and Schumacher's weren't.

At Singapore on Sunday, Hamilton's attempted pass on Massa had already failed and the McLaren driver backed out of the move. His wing was plucked off as he tucked back behind the Ferrari and misjudged where the front extremities of his car were.

Had he waited another lap, he would have easily passed the Ferrari courtesy of DRS and a full complement of Kers. It was in failing to recognise that in the heat of the moment and aggressively tucking back in - probably in preparation for another assault on the Ferrari at the very next corner - that Hamilton got himself into trouble.

It's as if the more it goes wrong, the harder he tries and the worse it gets. Some time spent reflecting on the subtly changed demands of the new era F1 might pay him well.

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