Lewis Hamilton has surprised Mercedes by achieving his best start to an F1 season despite the team having its “least competitive” margin in years.
The reigning champion has won three of the opening four races and finished second to title rival Max Verstappen in the other, collecting an impressive 94 points from a possible 104 so far, including the four available for the fastest lap.
What is all the more remarkable is that Hamilton has done so despite starting on the back foot with a clear pace disadvantage compared to Red Bull during pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “He’s doing a good job, isn’t he?
“In Bahrain in winter testing, what you could see with Lewis was he realised that he and the team were going to have to be absolutely perfect to be able to go out there and win races.
“You also realised that one bad test was not an indication to him that this might be a championship that he is not in the running for.
“It surprises me, that stat, because you think this is the least competitive margin that we’ve had for a number of years.
“But what I would say is he has arrived in a frame of mind that is just about maximising every little opportunity, be it on track, in the set-up, how we approach the weekend. He brought that to Bahrain and we haven’t seen it wane at all since.”
Hamilton started the last race in Spain from his 100th pole position but had to battle back after losing the lead to Verstappen at the start, with the team deploying a mid-race strategy gamble to get the better of the Red Bull driver.
The Briton is now just two wins shy of his 100th victory, but Shovlin said Hamilton’s standards are now so high that he felt last weekend was not one of his best.
“There are plenty of things we can actually tidy up with enough planning on our strategy side and trying to understand better how to extrapolate the tyre data,” said Shovlin.
“I think Lewis did a great job, but he’s got so many brilliant wins under his belt I think this probably isn’t one of them because he will say he could have done a better job at the start. He couldn’t attack enough in the first stint.”
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