Hamilton confident of title win with Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has no doubts Mercedes can keep him in the Formula One title hunt this season.

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes and Hamilton have started strongly this year, with the 28-year-old finishing third in the last two races, giving the team back-to-back podiums for the first time in three years.

Ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton currently lies fourth in the drivers' standings, 12 points behind current leader and reigning three-times champion Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull.

A year ago, Mercedes threatened a championship challenge when Nico Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position and was then second in Monaco.

But over the second half of the season Mercedes tailed off miserably, with Rosberg eventually ninth in the title standings and then team-mate Michael Schumacher 13th, whilst the team slipped to a low of fifth in the constructors' championship.

Hamilton, however, is confident there will be no such fall from grace on this occasion.

"It's always difficult for any team to keep bringing updates and keep developing the car," said Hamilton.

"With this team, I'm sure they've brought updates over the years, but it has not really gone their way.

"I feel with the car we have, with the baseline we have, we're going to be strong everywhere.

"But it's about how much progress Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus make, and McLaren as well.

"But this team has made a big step forward compared to last year in terms of how they are developing and improving.

"There is a lot of hard work going on back at the factory, so I can only see positives coming and I hope that continues."

Hamilton is convinced former team McLaren will again become a threat, despite their troubled start to the campaign after coming into the year with a radically developed car that finds itself off the pace.

In 2009, a year after winning the title, Hamilton suffered a wretched start to the season, but come the summer he was back in winning form, even if it came too late for him to defend his crown.

But it proved what McLaren are capable of, and he has no doubts they will come good again.

"You could see at the last race (in China on Sunday) they made quite a big step forward," added Hamilton.

"If anyone can turn it around then it's them. They've always done that. They've got that strength to catch up, they always have.

"In some ways that's a positive, but in some ways it's a negative because you should never be wanting to catch up.

"You want to be at the front and taking steps forward rather than trying to catch up."

The Briton, however, has fallen foul of his old team after claiming in an interview this week he was thrown out of the garage by sporting director Sam Michael when he attempted to pay a visit during the first test in Jerez.

In response, group head of communications Matt Bishop said: "Sam didn't throw Lewis out of our garage.

"Rather, he gently guided him out since our car was being worked on by our mechanics at the time.

"There were a number of its dismantled components clearly visible, which no-one from a rival team should see.

"Lewis knew he shouldn't have been in our garage in the first place, just as all team personnel know they shouldn't enter rival teams' garages.

"But Lewis has since spent time in our paddock hospitality units at a number of grands prix so far this season, and he's always been warmly welcomed when he's visited us."

On track, Hamilton was 10th quickest in practice for Sunday's race due to a struggle with the car's balance, finishing eight tenths of a second behind Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn was ahead of Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Vettel, with the Australian 0.030secs adrift and the German 0.128secs down.

Fernando Alonso, winner in China and second quickest in the morning run behind Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, slipped to fourth in the afternoon, but only 0.156secs behind Raikkonen, with Force India's Paul Di Resta fifth fastest in both sessions.

McLaren appear to be facing another troublesome weekend as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were 11th and 13th respectively, both over a second down, whilst Marussia's Max Chilton was 20th, three seconds back.

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