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The Inside Line: Superb season for Mercedes in F1

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Move aside, Red Bull, Mercedes is now the dominant team in Formula One racing.

After the fourth race in this year's 19-round season, Mercedes has accumulated 154 points in the F1 constructors' championship standings, compared to 57 points to its closest competitor, Red Bull. Force India is next in line with 54, followed by Ferrari's 52.

Mercedes has won the first four races, with Nico Rosberg scoring the victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and then Lewis Hamilton winning the next three grand prix -- Malaysia, Bahrain and China. It's the first time in Hamilton's F1 career that he has won three races in a row. Rosberg has finished second to his teammate in each of those events.

Rosberg is presently atop the world championship standings with 79 points, but Hamilton is just four points behind him.

"What an incredible job this team has done," Hamilton said. "Right now, we have the best car and the best engine. And I want to be the best driver around. It wasn't only my third win in a row. It was the third one-two for Mercedes in a row, and that is pretty unique."

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, is in his second season with Mercedes after spending his first six years in F1 with McLaren. Rosberg has driven for Mercedes since the start of the 2010 season.

Mercedes has adapted better to F1's new technical regulations this season compared to its rivals, particularly Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren. The cars are equipped with a new 1.6-liter, V6 turbocharged power unit (engine). There were also major alterations to the exterior designs of the cars, and aerodynamic changes were made to reduce downforce. Mercedes is not only perfect in race wins this season but pole victories as well.

"It's really a pleasure to drive this car at the moment," Rosberg said. "It's incredible the car that the team has built - fantastic. This thing is so quick. It really increases the enjoyment level even further."

At this point of the season, the only flaw for Mercedes occurred in Australia, where Hamilton was forced to retire after two laps due to a faulty spark plug. But Hamilton has been on a tear since, scoring maximum points and moving closer to his teammate for the world championship lead.

"This team is on a roll, that's for sure," Hamilton said. "We're going to keep pushing hard, moving forward, developing and improving the car and the engine. That's what Mercedes-Benz always wants to do. The others are pushing to catch us, so I hope our progress continues."

The "European Tour" of the F1 season begins the second weekend in May with the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

Following the conclusion of the 2013 season, Mercedes reshuffled its management team, as Ross Brawn stepped down as team principal and handed over his leadership to executive director (business) Toto Wolff and executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe.

"It's a great result for the team to get the third 1-2 in a row," Wolff said after last Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix. "Now we are aiming to continue this good form going into the European season."

Last week, Mercedes announced that technical director Bob Bell will leave his position with the team at the end of the season. Lowe will then assume Bell's duties.

After being the dominant team the past four years, Red Bull is not giving up on its hopes of winning a fifth consecutive constructors' title. Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel is the four-time defending world champion, but Vettel has appeared on the podium only once this season -- third place in Malaysia. He is currently fifth in the championship standings (33 points).

"I am not yet where I want to be, and I'm pretty much fighting with the car," Vettel said. "It is an ongoing process. Sometimes it feels that we are making one step forward, but then also one backward again. Hopefully, we are able to make some steps into the right direction for the upcoming races."

Vettel finished fifth in China, while his new teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, placed fourth. It's the second time this season that Ricciardo has finished ahead of Vettel in a race.

"We are still facing a long year, so anything should be possible," Vettel said. "The truth is that we have a great car, and now we need to work on the upgrades and implement them in the best possible way to make sure we get more power out of the engine."

While Red Bull looks for ways to improve its cars and gain ground in the constructors' title battle, Mercedes is confident that its winning momentum will continue at the next round in Barcelona.

"We want to go to Barcelona with the biggest step; that's our ambition," Rosberg said. "Barcelona is a chance for us to extend the advantage that we have, and that's the approach that we have going to Barcelona, 100 percent."