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Hamilton too hard on himself, says McLaren boss

By Alan Baldwin

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - McLaren have told Lewis Hamilton to be less hard on himself after an inaugural Indian Grand Prix that again had the 2008 Formula One champion apologizing profusely to team and sponsors.

The Briton collided with Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa during the race, their sixth clash on track this season, after being demoted three places on the starting grid for ignoring warning flags in practice.

Race stewards ruled Massa was to blame for Sunday's collision, handing him a drive through penalty, but Hamilton remained contrite about his own general performance over the weekend.

"I've had to apologize to the team," the 26-year-old told television reporters after the race.

"I'm sorry for the team, they always do a great job every weekend, so to disappoint them like this ... Just big apologies to the team, my sponsors, after yet another disastrous race. It's been an eventful year.

"I just can't apologize enough to my team for the negativity that surrounds me nowadays," added Hamilton, who finished the race in seventh place and made a quick getaway afterwards.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh felt Hamilton should be easier on himself.

"Yes I do, frankly," he told reporters. "I've told him that on several occasions. Don't apologize. You're a racing driver. If you've made a mistake accept it, learn from it, move on."

STAGED HANDSHAKE

Hamilton has been repeatedly punished by the stewards this season for aggressive driving while he and Massa have developed a magnetic attraction on the track that has developed into something of a feud and caused concern at both teams.

Whitmarsh said he had spoken about it to Ferrari counterpart Stefano Domenicali but added that there would be no contrived peace gesture for the cameras.

"A staged handshake, a conciliatory gesture outside the garage at the next Grand Prix ... you don't want that, unless it's to take the mickey out of it. They've got to sort themselves out," he said firmly.

Hamilton has made errors of judgment while team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, has gone from strength to strength in the closing races of a championship already won by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

"He's very analytical," Whitmarsh said of Hamilton. "He's very serious about trying to do the best job he can. He's much too hard on himself.

"I've known Lewis for a long, long time and he's been like it since he was a kartist and he would beat up on himself. That's his way. That's his psychology. That's how he motivates himself," he added.

Whitmarsh would not comment on whether the Briton's personal life had been part of the problem, with Hamilton recently splitting up with American singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)