Mercedes’ decision to replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher with Lewis Hamilton has already paid dividends this season.
The Briton, penalised at the Bahrain Grand Prix for a gearbox change which dropped him to ninth on the starting grid, fought back to finish fifth on Sunday ensuring that he scored in double figures in each of the first four races.
Hamilton has 50 points - trailing leader Sebastian Vettel by 27 – which is one more than what Schumacher scored in the entire season last year, which had a record 20 races.
Reliability issues for Mercedes last year meant that the veteran German retired from five of the first seven races in 2012, when the car’s pace was at its strongest. He then scored points just once in his last seven races as the team fell back in the development battle.
“It’s been a tough weekend for us but we got through it,” Hamilton said looking back at the Bahrain GP. “My race didn’t start well at all. I was looking after the tyres but I really struggled on the first two stints and was falling back. But as the temperatures dropped, the car picked up and then I had the grip that I needed to push and close the gap.”
The 2008 world champion battled with Red Bull driver Mark Webber intensely in the closing stages to grab fifth place.
“We really needed that point and I was so determined to get by,” he said. “It was good, clean wheel-to-wheel racing.”
Currently placed third in the standings, Hamilton said the results were “beyond any of our expectations.”
“We’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth at the moment and, if we can make that next step, then we can close the gap,” he pointed out.
It’s, however, fair to say that Hamilton has gained from Schumacher’s inputs in the development of this season’s car.
Hamilton has collected two podiums in his four races so far, which Schumacher could manage only once in his three years at Mercedes with the Briton also significantly ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg, who had claimed pole in Bahrain.
Rosberg, who seems to have inherited Schumacher's bad luck, finished ninth on Sunday and is 36 points adrift from Hamilton.