What is going wrong with Lewis Hamilton?

By Mark HughesBBC F1 commentary box producer

There's a frustration growing in Lewis Hamilton as Sebastian Vettel apparently romps away to another world title - and it's to do with which picture he is seeing.

You could make a case for either of the following scenarios to explain his current competitive position:

Scenario one: The McLaren is currently the fastest car there is under race conditions, as has been apparent now in the last three grands prix. It's the team with the massive resource that, long term, will always be capable of winning Lewis world championships.

Scenario two: The McLaren is being flattered by Hamilton who has a skill set beyond that of any other driver. The car is a long way from being as fast as a Red Bull but Hamilton is disguising this. But he'd much rather be applying that skill in a car that's as fast as the opposition and, worryingly, McLaren has not produced a truly fast car since his title year of 2008. If his car was as quick, but no quicker, than anyone else's he would be racking up the multiple race wins and titles that are his due.

It's clear in much of what Hamilton says that he currently favours scenario two over one and it leads inevitably to the question of whether this is playing its part in the string of on-track incidents he has been involved in recently.

Yes, he's a hugely exciting driver and the in-car attitude that has seen him over the years pull off many a stunning passing move - such as that upon his team-mate Jenson Button in China this year - can on occasion lead to trouble. You don't get one without the other.

But whilst most of his individual incidents in Monaco and Montreal can be rationalised in this way, the fact that he's having such a string of them does pose the question of whether his frustration is taking his competitive striving over-centre, whether he is currently somehow out of equilibrium.

His move on Mark Webber in the first corner of racing in Canada was perhaps the most telling; it never had a possibility of working. It was as if Webber was going through there slower than he wanted to go and he had no patience for messing around - he needed to be up front, now.

An attempt at ambushing Michael Schumacher by going around his outside on the approach to the hairpin is the sort of outrageous move he might have pulled off in karting, but simply resulted in Michael not realising he was there until he was already forcing the McLaren onto the grass.

His race-ending incident with team-mate Button might also be viewed in these terms - as an unconventional move that had the element of surprise but not pulled off early enough. However, it could just as easily be seen through a different filter, as one related to the in-team dynamics between them.

Talking about the incident in the afterglow of his stunning victory, Button was apologetic in his tone. "I couldn't see in my mirrors and I have since apologised to him. It was just one of those things." Jenson sounded less conciliatory in the adrenaline of the moment: "What was he doing?"

As Martin Brundle pointed out during the two-hour break in the racing in Sunday, Button's head could be seen tilted over to his mirror as Hamilton was tracking him. But was he looking at them at the crucial moment that Lewis flicked left rather than the more conventional right? That is less certain.

If he was and he took up his line regardless, might that not have been Button laying down a marker: "You challenged me to make room for you or crash in China. I'm not allowing you to do that again". If it was, it would be quite understandable.

Button's mature, considered approach has made him hugely popular within the team. Not that Hamilton is unpopular there, but as a generalisation they find it easier to assess progress with Button than with Hamilton's sometimes flightier, less mature persona.

Not unnaturally that has led many there to gravitate towards Button on a personal level even though on a professional level they recognise the unique skills Hamilton brings to the table. Even Button realises as much.

Talking about Hamilton's unadulterated driving skill between the walls of Montreal, Button said: "He is unreal around here. Last year I got within 0.4s of him in qualifying and that's the closest any teammate has ever got to him."

That gap was down to 0.273s last Saturday, but the point remains: Hamilton is almost certainly the fastest driver in F1. "He is one of the fastest the sport has ever seen," said Button recently.

But then why is that not being translated into results? And that's the thing that is bugging Lewis.

The answer, like reality, is complex and multi-dimensional. But it's as if Lewis feels he has not got time for that. And every time that frustration butts up against reality, it's tending to find something solid.

The world at the moment isn't as Lewis would want it. He would like the showbiz rapper and celebrity athlete friends that came to be with him in Montreal to have seen him demonstrate his dazzling skills to leave the rest of the field dazed and confused. He had a show to put on and those other lesser drivers just got in the way.

He has been here before and he's bounced back. He is way too good not to - and is perfectly capable of doing it at the very next race.

But there is sporting focus, there is raw desire and there is a question of whether those things are currently in harmony in Lewis' world.

Mark Hughes has been an F1 journalist for 10 years and is an award-winning author of several books