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Motorsport | Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton © Gallo Images

Hamilton takes Mercedes to unexpected heights

Former world champion Lewis Hamilton was expecting to spend a year getting to know the team after joining struggling Mercedes for the 2013 season.

However, after three races, it seems that Hamilton and Mercedes could launch a serious challenge for the title.

Fifth place or better in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix would already see the Briton overtake the points tally his predecessor at the German works team, record world champion Michael Schumacher, achieved last year.

"When I moved, everybody said it was the worst decision I could ever have made. But it is clear: The more we impress and improve, the more people will have to change their opinion," Hamilton said.

Hamilton his first six year in the sport with McLaren and won the world championship with the British team in 2008 after coming close a year earlier in his debut campaign.

With McLaren he won a race every season, totaling 21 victories in 110 starts.

His move to Mercedes, who have won just once since taking over from BrawnGP three years ago, caused some raised eyebrows and many believed it was simply to be paid more, though the 28-year-old has denied that.

He has, however, been his money worth.

Hamilton finished fifth in the season-opener in Australia and followed that up with back-to-back third places in Malaysia and China - even though the one in Malaysia was a result of a team order that prevented his faster teammate Nico Rosberg from overtaking him.

"With each race, I am becoming more settled in the team and more comfortable in my car, and we were very happy with the pole and podium finish (on Sunday in China)," he said.

Hamilton sits fourth in the 2013 standings on 40 points, 12 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. Schumacher managed just 49 in the entire season last year and Hamilton would overtake that mark with fifth place or better in Bahrain.

But Hamilton is aiming for more.

"There are some areas where we need to improve to close that gap to the fastest cars and we're working hard to identify and develop those," he said.

"There's a limit to what we can do before Bahrain but I'll be talking to my engineers ... and see where we can improve in the short term."

Six years ago, Hamilton became the first driver to secure three podium places in his first three races of his career in Bahrain. He went on to win four races in 2007 but lost the title by one point to Kimi Raikkonen, then at Ferrari.

His talent is beyond doubt, he makes no compromises. However, the Briton with Caribbean roots has also earned a reputation of being involved in accidents, which in turn has earned him the nickname of Crashkid.

Hamilton no longer seems so driven by his own expectations, even if these remain as high as ever. The racing driver, who is romantically involved with pop star Nicole Scherzinger and himself is a budding singer, seems much more relaxed and satisfied than in previous years.

Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff expects much from Hamilton.

"He is now at the height of his career, or is about to reach it," Wolff said.


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