LONDON, Sept 30, 2011 (Tim Collings / AFP) - Sebastian Vettel may be within a point of joining an elite group of double champions in Formula One's hall of fame, but it is still his rival Lewis Hamilton who is the most talked-about man in the
After another dazzling drive from 19th to fifth in last Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, won by 24-year-old Vettel of Red Bull, Hamilton was not praised, but put under attack and examination after an incident involving Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
Three-time champion Jackie Stewart, widely seen as one of the senior spokesmen in top level motor racing, joined a debate sparked by some sarcastic and offensive behaviour by Massa during post-race interviews in south-east Asia.
To his credit, McLaren's Hamilton kept his head down and his mouth shut, but after a difficult season, littered with accidents and incidents, he has been seen as a driver of huge natural talent taken hostage by his own impetuosity.
Stewart said: "I am a bit confused because he certainly knows how to drive and has a very large amount of natural talent, but if he is going to be a great driver he cannot have serial incidents. And none of the great drivers ever drove in that fashion.
"He has all the skills but somehow or other, he jumps out of gear mentally - like in (Singapore) qualifying, leaving the pits. I cannot believe he nearly had an incident that would have taken him out of qualifying.
"The race incident was again uncalled for, so I think he needs to think about his mind-management. He has the skills, and he has the abilities, but unfortunately he is having too many incidents.
"Michael (Schumacher) has had the same problem, but all the great drivers, the Fangios, Jim Clarks, Niki Lauda, myself - we didn't have many accidents."
It was interesting that Stewart did not include Brazilian Ayrton Senna, also a three-times champion, in that list of 'great drivers' as he was the man who, with an aggressive approach, changed many drivers' attitude to racing in the modern age.
Hamilton's father Anthony said he felt that Lewis's current management - the XIX Entertainment agency run by Simon Fuller - had failed to provide sufficient support to their client in Singapore where, he pointed out, every other driver had an expert personal manager at his side in the pits.
"His management need to do more," Hamilton's father told the BBC.
"What I will say is look up the paddock; every driver that's got a driver manager, the manager is here (in Singapore) and in the driver's life."
Hamilton's life, as much as his racing, has been under scrutiny for the last 18 months during which Vettel has risen from being a little-known 'wunderkind' to a champion with the potential to emulate the achievements of his fellow-German Schumacher.
In that time, Red Bull - thanks to the design genius of Adrian Newey - have produced unbeatable cars while McLaren have laboured in pursuit and, it has appeared, Hamilton has slipped into a mode where he has allowed too much distraction to enter his life.
His high-profile relationship with American pop singer Nicole Scherzinger, formerly of the Pussycat Dolls, has led him into a milieu which has accentuated his individuality.
With his father at his shoulder, however, Hamilton was more restrained in public, guided carefully through the maelstrom of an F1 season and discouraged from flying too often to Los Angeles.
He also had fewer clashes with the authorities on or off the track.
As Senna observed, the racing in F1 is not so 'pure' as the racing in any driver's early career in karting and lower formulae, infused as he saw it, with politics, financial considerations and wider forms of chicanery and manipulation.
It is up to 2008 champion Hamilton, now, to decide if he can afford to be himself, to be