17 April 2012 09:26

LONDON - A more mature Lewis Hamilton has harnessed the power of family and friends to lift him back on top of the Formula One world championship.

McLaren's 2008 champion leads the overall standings after taking his third successive third place finish in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

The bottom rung of the podium may not feel like much of an achievement for an all-out racer like Hamilton but the 27-year-old has learnt that consistency wins titles as much as victories.

So, too, does having the right people around him.

Hamilton was managed by his father Anthony, who had steered him through the junior series and accompanied him on every step of the journey to Formula One, until 2010 when the driver decided a break was needed.

In China, they were together again.

"I think just everything's better this year. The team are better, the car is better and I'm a lot better. I've got my Dad here, you know, and that's not fake. That's real, a good bond we've got now and on the up," he told British reporters after the race.

"Things are great with my mum, things are great with my girlfriend, so things are great and that's reflecting in my performances I think."

Hamilton senior, who also manages British Force India driver Paul Di Resta, had not planned to attend a race before the start of the European season until he got the call from his son inviting him to Shanghai.

The McLaren driver, whose professional management remains in place, was reluctant to say much more than "he's here so that's a good thing...It's just taken time for us to fix things and it's now fixed."

Hamilton had a crash-filled and controversial season last year, with multiple clashes with Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa.

There would have been many with their hearts in their mouths as Hamilton came up behind Massa in Sunday's race but he dealt with the situation clinically, passing without incident and without any rash moves.

"I think he's inevitably more mature. I think even I've grown up a bit from last year," laughed McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh.

"I think he's learned, and I think he realises a little bit of patience goes a long way."

Hamilton started the first two races of the season on pole position but failed to convert them into wins more through bad luck - caught out by a safety car interlude in Australia and being held in the pits in Malaysia - than anything else.

In China, he had started seventh after collecting a five place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change but made a strong recovery. He will be a favourite to win in Bahrain this weekend.

"Things haven't quite gone his way. It's quite easy to become frustrated with that, and I think you can see it," said Whitmarsh.

"But...seeing his body language on the podium and the like, he is very balanced about it. He is realising this is a season where just going all out for race wins isn't necessarily the right way to win the world championship." (Reuters)