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Can resurgent Hamilton ride out the F1 roulette wheel?

By Ed Foster, for CNN
June 22, 2012 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Lewis Hamilton is Formula One's seventh winner in the seven races so far this season following his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June. Lewis Hamilton is Formula One's seventh winner in the seven races so far this season following his victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
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Seventh heaven
Monaco magic
Spanish success
Vettel's victory
German joy
Alonso reigns in rain
On the Button
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Formula One circuit moves to Spain this weekend for European Grand Prix
  • Lewis Hamilton was the seventh winner from seven races so far in 2012
  • The 2008 world champion is back in form after struggling last year
  • He has turned the tables on McLaren teammate Jenson Button to lead standings

Editor's note: Ed Foster is the associate editor of Motor Sport magazine. He is also an F1 pundit for CNN's World Sport show and writes blogs for CNN.com International.

(Motor Sport) -- Now we have seven different winners from the first seven races of the Formula One season. There's never been anything like it in the history of the sport.

Whether it will become eight from eight in Valencia this weekend is anyone's guess.

The latest beneficiary in the on-track "lottery" was Lewis Hamilton in Canada, five years on from his first F1 win at the same circuit. But the only thing really surprising about the result was that it took so long for the 2008 world champion to get his name on the 2012 winners' list.

Who would have thought that Williams' Pastor Maldonado would win a race before Hamilton this year?

Maybe a few people after the Brit's performance in 2011 -- the year that he was seemingly driving a magnet to Felipe Massa's car, such were the number of times the two collided. It was the year of the deep depression, when off-track woes became on-track nightmares.

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Okay, he won two races, in Germany and Abu Dhabi, but McLaren teammate Button won three. A new management company in the shape of Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment -- other customers: the Beckhams, Jennifer Lopez and former UK Pop Idol winner Will Young -- did little to ease the minds of Lewis' fans and team.

Latest F1 standings ahead of European Grand Prix

What was happening to the man who walked into the F1 paddock in 2007 as if he had been racing there for years? Why the sudden downturn in performance from the record-setting racer who finished on the podium in his first nine F1 races?

"With both our drivers, with Lewis and Jenson, they have a continued drive to learn," McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale told me when I quizzed him on the subject. "It's just part of the learning process. It's been commented on ... the process has been gradual, the process of taking life's knocks.

"Lewis has adapted progressively and it's very easy -- as we all know -- when you're on a roll to build yourself a virtuous spiral, confidence will get you a long way. Likewise, when it goes the other way you can get a dose of the jitters. The difference between success and failure is really small.

"It's an enormous pressure on young people to have the white heat of public scrutiny and media attention on you. When you look at some of these drivers -- whether it's Lewis or (Sergio) Perez -- look at what we're expecting of them week in, week out. It's a huge ask.

"Nothing can prepare you for that. The innate talent was in there with Lewis, but you've still got to survive the ravages of the pit lane. And that's hard."

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This year, though, we seem to have the old Lewis back. The one who would go half a second faster than anyone else in qualifying. He did this at last month's Spanish Grand Prix, but he was promptly, and some say ridiculously, dropped to the back of the grid for not having enough fuel in his car -- a large price to pay for a small misjudgment by McLaren.

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Mark Webber receives the winning trophy from Prince Albert II of Monaco after his superb victory from pole. Mark Webber receives the winning trophy from Prince Albert II of Monaco after his superb victory from pole.
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Webber seals Monaco Grand Prix triumph Webber seals Monaco Grand Prix triumph

It was his reaction that proved to everyone, however, that Lewis had sorted the problems that plagued his 2011 season. He didn't complain, he drove the wheels off the car and didn't make any contact on his way through the field to eighth place and four crucial points.

The Canadian Grand Prix was remarkable in that Lewis finally cracked his 2012 nut, but interesting too because he conserved his tires beautifully. His teammate, the one famous for being gentle on those Pirellis, couldn't.

Button finished a lap behind in 16th at a circuit where, in 2011, he climbed from the back of the grid to win the race on the last lap. Lewis, meanwhile, was busy crashing into him. How F1's roulette tables have turned.

Even stranger about Jenson's recent performances is that he has no idea why he is so slow. He's not blaming the tires -- take note Herr Schumacher -- but neither is he blaming anything else. He simply doesn't know where he's losing the time.

In his title-winning year of 2009, Button won six of the first seven races for Brawn GP; he could do no wrong, he was unbeatable. Come the latter half of the season, though, he started to drop back down the field and couldn't work out why. His teammate Rubens Barrichello was busy winning races in the same car, so clearly it was capable.

In the end it mattered not -- he sealed the championship in Brazil with a fifth-place finish, singing, very badly, "We Are the Champions" over the radio to his team.

With the 2012 championship so tight, Button will need to work out where it's going wrong as soon as possible, otherwise he won't be singing any Queen numbers for a while. Maybe that's a good thing?

The future seems brighter for Hamilton, though. He's arguably driving better now than he ever has, and the McLaren should be capable of being on the podium at every race this year. If he keeps up his level of performance for the next 13 races anything is possible.

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