Michael Bailey: Lewis Hamilton is an unbowed man on an F1 mission

Three fantastic races in and it seems we have got the potential for a great season on our hands – and maybe after last weekend in China, another great chase for the world championship.

Let's be clear, one person dominating a sport – no matter how talented that particular person is – is bad news. No amount of midfield scrapping or tyre degradation would help that.

So while the opening rounds in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur simmered along nicely, for me the first true bubbles of excitement broke the surface in Shanghai on Sunday.

And that was mainly due to the supreme efforts of Lewis Hamilton.

Now for this hack's money, of those currently on the grid only Fernando Alonso gets anywhere near Hamilton's raw driving talent – and the McLaren driver should have more than just the 2008 world crown to his name.


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His drive to add to that tally is obvious to everyone but whether he was going to have a car to deliver this season was a big question over winter testing, as the Woking outfit looked uncharacteristically lost.

Yet he somehow pulled off a brilliant second place in Australia with what was effectively an untested car, before a tough race in Malaysia saw promising situations get away from him quicker than the sight of Sebastian Vettel's rear wing.

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Of course, an extremely harsh post-race penalty for weaving to apparently block Felipe Massa didn't help as he finally finished eighth – those two deducted points, even at this stage of the season, play on the mind.

But seven days later around Shanghai, Hamilton was brilliant.

From the tactical: learning from Sepang to save his tyres for the race, despite suffering a place or two in qualifying as a result – to his focused attitude all race: something missing from his team-mate Jenson Button, especially when he came into the pits ahead of Vettel, but unbelievably pulled into the waiting, well marked Red Bull bay.

Sunday made you wonder if Vettel's incredible momentum from the end of last season could finally be easing.

No doubt for me that, if it does, Hamilton is the man capable of taking advantage – especially given his thrilling overtaking efforts in China.

All that said, Red Bull are still the team to beat heading into the Turkish Grand Prix on May 8 – where Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber had their remarkable crash last season.

With the Australian lapping almost three seconds quicker than the rest on Sunday on route to the podium from 18th on the grid, there is a second man on a mission at the moment.

So with what is to come, it is probably good the F1 world has a three-week breather before it heads to Europe.

• Considering how deflating things felt after Melbourne – which maybe had more to do with the excitement and pressure built up over the winter than anything else – there was tangible Team Lotus joy in China.

This weekend was fairly smooth for the Hingham team, who were still some way from making Q2 – something they have only achieved twice since joining the grid at the start of last season.

But the actual racing – now there is a different story.

Team Lotus have kept themselves ahead of former world champions Williams in the constructors' table with three rounds completed thanks to Jarno Trulli's 13th finish in Melbourne, while my favourite stat from Shanghai was the Italian's fastest lap of the race – faster than the best from Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. How about that?

And of course, Heikki Kovalainen finished ahead of Pastor Maldonado's Williams and an erratic Sergio Perez in his Sauber – on race pace, on strategy, on merit.

The Finn's car was only lapped by five others – OK, so that may not sound impressive, but one look at the other teams who joined in 2010 and the contrast is stark: both Hispania and Virgin were at least another two seconds off the pace and an extra lap behind, with little sign of closing the gap any time soon.

So some genuinely good news for Team Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne, who has become quite the BBC favourite.

During most of the Malaysian Grand Prix the Norwich engineer was chipping in with insights when Martin Brundle and David Coulthard asked – a pretty useful way to get your team some coverage.

When given the chance to sum up Team Lotus' Shanghai efforts after the race, it was obvious Gascoyne was beaming.

Some 'big' updates planned for round five in Barcelona could yet bring the Hingham lot even closer to their midfield targets.

There have even been quiet suggestions they hope to be running their Group Lotus-backed rivals Renault close come the end of the season – something that would be a startling result.

Speaking of the Lotus rivalry, the High Court verdict over using the Lotus name in F1 should arrive over the coming weeks.

What does seem clear from commentators and fans alike is that Renault are in black and gold and the Lotuses are green and yellow.

All of which means Hethel's Group Lotus – fundamentally Proton – are currently getting little value for their �100m sponsorship.

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