In the case of Hamilton, I think people’s memories are far too short.
For me, the hype that surrounds Hamilton is about three things:
(1) His first year in F1 was astounding, which I think every F1 fan (regardless of who they ultimately support) would agree with (even Alonso fans).
(2) He has the ability (like Vettel and Alonso) to push the car to its absolute limit and produce lap times that seem amazing, especially when compared to their team mates.
(3) He is pretty handy at overtaking.
Given how he performed in his first year, I find it hard to understand comments about his maturity or ability to think in the car – it took Vettel a couple of years to hone the skills that he currently wields, but Hamilton had the whole package out of the box. I’d say that one of his strengths is an ability to think clearly whilst racing, which is why he is so good at points 2 and 3 above. In fact, I’d say that he is actually one of the drivers that thinks the most whilst in the car. I would have to agree that the recent times he has been caught out by poor calls have made him look pretty silly, but they were exaggerated to look even worse by the circumstances. After China this year, we were applauding his strategy to reel RB back in.
Overall, I’d say that his current dip in form is just down to the car. McLaren might well have the race pace now, but they didn’t for the first few races – and I think we all knew that Vettel was going to walk this year from race two. So, given that he knows he can’t win the title, I think he is thinking of the bigger picture and focussing instead on improving his legacy around points 2 and 3. Given the car that can consistently win races, I think we would see a return to the 2007/08 form and consistency.
Interestingly, I wonder what we might be saying about Vettel if RB dropped behind Ferrari and McLaren next year?
(PS – yes, I do cheer for Hamilton, but I’m just as much of a fan of Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher, Kovaleinen, Di Resta and Kobayashi)