Hamilton riding high with Mercedes

By Michael Casey, AP, 19 April 2013
© Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has the look of a man who has silenced the doubters.

He was derided when he abandoned McLaren for the less-glamorous Mercedes team this season. Critics questioned his integrity and accused him of being driven by money.

But three races into the season, his gamble appears to be paying off. He had his second podium in three races last week at the Chinese Grand Prix, where he also earned his first pole, and some of that cockiness has returned to a man known for his tattoos and glamorous lifestyle.

"It is good to walk around with my head up and smile at all those who have helped me in my decision and gave me the opportunity," Hamilton told the Formula 1 website. "I also feel good about myself. I have really thought it through and it is great to see now that the team is doing so well and that I can contribute to that success."

Hamilton knows the team still has work to do.

Although he finished third last week, he struggled to keep up with the Ferraris after starting on pole and just barely crossed the line ahead of a hard-charging Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. He also was well behind the Ferraris and Vettel in the first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, finishing 13th.

Still, Hamilton appears taken aback by the team's strong start and the fact the car is so much faster than the McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.

"That is probably the biggest surprise - where we are in relation to them. The McLaren at the end of last year was awesome -- the quickest car on the grid -- and usually if you have the quickest car and there are not massive changes in the regulations you carry that into the next year," Hamilton said.

"So it should, again, be a quick and awesome car, but for some reason -- I don't know why -- it hasn't happened that way. But that is not my concern anymore. And take Mercedes: They had a car that was nowhere, and look, we had a pole position last weekend. What a great feeling that was, it is a beautiful car to drive."

The 2008 world champion said he hasn't talked to Button and Perez about the problems but has remained in contact with the team -- even accidently trying to drive into the McLaren pits during the Malaysian GP.

"I went to see them in Australia. But I also tried to see them in Jerez, at the test, and there (sporting director) Sam Michael threw me out of the garage. That wasn't very positive and I don't feel very good about that," he said. "(Team principal) Martin (Whitmarsh) has been great and I have to say that I haven't had enough contact, so I will give Martin a call."

Hamilton put Mercedes' pace down to necessary adjustments after an inconsistent 2012.

"They've been lost before. They have even said that," he said. "The aerodynamics, the wind tunnel -- people were in the wrong place. So they took a step back and tried to analyse everything and move things into the right position. The car has just been on a positive curve since they changed the wind tunnel, since they made all these changes within the last half year, and they've been improving at a very serious rate."

Though Mercedes has improved markedly, Hamilton remains cautious about predicting he could win another title this year or even a race in the near term.

"One step at a time. I don't want to shoot straight at P1. But of course if it comes, it comes," he said. "I am not saying 'we have to win.' So if we move forward -- a second place and then a first -- that would be fantastic. So my target for this weekend is to finish higher than last weekend. And all signals suggest that we can do it. I feel very positive for this weekend. Sure, it is a very tough track for tyre degradation, but generally I've always been quite quick here."

 

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