Lauda praise for Hamilton
2:29pm Monday 21st April 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Lewis Hamilton is currently performing at the peak of perfection.
That is the view of three-times world champion Niki Lauda in the wake of Hamilton claiming three successive grand prix victories for the first time in his Formula One career.
In taking the chequered flag in China on Sunday - doing so twice as it was waved a lap early by mistake - Hamilton now has 25 wins to his name, the same as Lauda and another three-time champion in Jim Clark.
As non-executive chairman of Mercedes, and the man who lured Hamilton away from McLaren towards the end of 2012 on the promise of what was to come from the team, Lauda is perfectly placed to assess the 29-year-old's current form.
Although Hamilton still trails team-mate Nico Rosberg by four points in the drivers' standings, Lauda can currently find no fault with the Briton.
"Lewis was outstanding. A good start and off he went," said Lauda on Hamilton's lights-to-flag win at the Shanghai International Circuit.
"His outstanding performance in the wet (in qualifying) made the win happen. Nico screwed up in the wet, which is why he was where he was at the start (fourth on the grid) and he could not win any more.
"I have to say the way Lewis is driving, from the first race until now, for me is outstanding. The guy makes no mistakes.
"He is absolutely on top of everything, he understands the car, which is complicated, more complicated than in the past, he understands the tyres and drives in the absolutely perfect way on the edge.
"He is on a high like I have never seen from him before."
Hamilton said after the race he was "in the happiest mood I can recall", with a number of factors behind the scenes playing a role in his level of dominance the like of which he has not experienced before.
Asked whether he had made a step change in his life, Hamilton said: "I would like to think so.
"It is a combination of things; it is where you are in your life, family, girlfriend, where I live. Everything.
"It's about having the right people in place, my management, being in the right team, and of course I've a great car and I'm working with a great group of people.
"It means this year I have just been able to arrive and drive with no other worries."
As reward for matching Lauda's career total of wins, Hamilton earned a flight home on Sunday night on the 65-year-old's private plane.
Lauda has warned, though, whilst the good times might be rolling now, trouble may still lurk around the corner.
"It is looking good, but we have to be careful. There are a lot of races to come and things can go wrong in any way," added Lauda.
"Over the next three weeks (ahead of the next race in Spain) everyone will come up with a new package.
"Barcelona is a very particular circuit, difficult, hard on tyres, not so much about the engine alone, more about a good car/engine combination.
"It will be the next level of measuring performance, who did the best upgrades. This will be very important information for me to see how the season will continue.
"If you are on top of your game in Barcelona then it is a bit easier, and then you have to watch again after the (August) summer break, but Barcelona for me is a key race.
"In China we saw Ferrari (come back), and the Red Bulls are famous for coming back.
"Adrian Newey (Red Bull's chief technical officer) wasn't in China, so I'm afraid he will have something new for Barcelona.
"At least there is a start point for us, and it has not been a bad one."
Lauda is also convinced Rosberg, who won in Australia but has since been runner-up to Hamilton at the last three races, will bounce back.
"Racing drivers are like this," said Lauda.
"If they are blown away, like he was at the weekend, he will get new strategies worked out to not let these things happen again."
Naturally, Hamilton knows the challenge he faces from Rosberg as he said: "He is still leading the championship, isn't he?
"In sports, it is all a psychological game. You cannot measure what getting good results has on other people, but I know how positive it is for me.
"Nico will be massively quick at every race we go to, so I am going to keep on working and keep with the approach I have because it is working perfectly for me."