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To be taken seriously, he shouldn’t have joked to a BBC interviewer in Monaco that “maybe it’s because I’m black” that he is hauled so often before race stewards to explain his on-track behavior.

Nor should he have been so quick to call Massa and Maldonado “ridiculous” and “stupid” for blocking his way. In both collisions, the stewards faulted Hamilton.

Fooling around in a sports car on a street in Australia last year, burning tire-rubber and being pulled over by police, was stupid of Hamilton, too.

Stuff like that makes the 26-year-old look like a hothead. Maybe the impression is false. But even so, it can fuel the doubts about whether Hamilton is mature enough, responsible enough to be treading that finest of lines between being brave and courting unnecessary danger. In other words, would a more levelheaded Hamilton be winning more and crashing less?

Perhaps. But Hamilton’s biggest problem is that his McLaren hasn’t been as fast as he would like, certainly not quick enough compared to the Red Bull of runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel, whom he’s beaten just once in seven races this season. That, undoubtedly, is pushing Hamilton to take more risks than he otherwise might.

In an interview with Lauda in 2009, Hamilton explained how demoralizing it is to drive a car that can’t compete.

“Lots and lots and lots of sleepless nights,” he said.

So Hamilton shouldn’t be faulted now for pushing as hard as he can, perhaps too hard at times.

Better for the spectacle of F1 that he’s trying, rather than not trying at all.

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/johnleicester