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Points prove Lotus's 2013 progress is real

Lotus has emerged from the first four races as Formula 1's biggest gainer over 2012, and equally confident it can keep up its form for the remainder of the campaign.

Kimi Raikkonen's three podium finishes from the first flyaway events, which included victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, have helped Lotus deliver a greater points improvement than any other outfit compared to last year.

Looking at the points scored in the first four races last year, against what the team have delivered this time around, Lotus has notched up 36 points more in the first four races than it did last year.

Its step forward in form is also highlighted by Kimi Raikkonen also delivering the biggest improvement among the drivers , enjoying a 33 points step up over how he did in the first four flyaways of 2012.

Lotus's form has impressed a number of its rivals, and proves that the E21 has built on the strengths of last year's contender.

With not every team having been able to deliver such progress over the winter, team principal Eric Boullier says the first races have shown that Lotus's step forward is real.

"It is always difficult to keep any momentum actually, but we can say we are fighting with the best now," said Boullier.

The challenge the team faces going forward though is in ensuring that it has the development potential to push on.

Although there is talk that rivals like Red Bull are preparing major updates for the Spanish Grand Prix, Boullier has hinted that his outfit is preparing something similarly big.

"We have an update like everybody," he said. "I don't know what Red Bull means by massive - so we will see. But we will all bring a nice package and I promise you that the development of this car is going very well."

FERRARI AND MERCEDES SHOWING GAINS

Although they do not match the progress made by Lotus, both Ferrari and Mercedes have also made good strides compared to last year.

Ferrari's 32 points jump is mostly down to the step forward that Felipe Massa has made this year, delivering 28 points more than he managed in the first four flyaways of last year.

And while Mercedes may have been left a little frustrated by missed opportunities in the first races, it has delivered a solid platform by scoring 27 points more than last year.

Interestingly, Lewis Hamilton has scored one more point this year for Mercedes in the first four races than he managed with the pace-setting McLaren 12 months ago.

McLAREN THE BIGGEST LOSER

McLaren's start to the campaign may not have been as bad as the team had feared heading to the first race, but the extent of its performance drop compared to last year is highlighted by a year-on-year comparison.

The Woking-based outfit is the biggest loser compared to 12 months ago, scoring a whopping 69 points less in the first four races than it managed in 2012.

The team has high hopes that a major update package planned for the Spanish Grand Prix can help lift it nearer the front, but it will need something pretty sensational if it is going to get itself anywhere near the form it enjoyed 12 months ago.

Although the extent of its drop points towards its title hopes slipping away, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said in Bahrain that he still did not want to give up on 2013 just yet to focus on next year's car.

"Maybe it is a character flaw, but I have made it reasonably clear from Australia that I am not even talking about 2014 at the moment," he said.

"One of my weaknesses is I want to be competitive. I want to get back to the front and I want to come to grands prix thinking we can win.

"We haven't thought that for the last four races and we want to get it back."

HOW THE POINTS STACK UP

A look at the team's performances over the first four races which have taken place in varying weather conditions and on different types of circuits has offered us a good insight in to the overall potential of the teams.

Comparing how the outfits have performed this year, compared to 12 months ago, shows which teams have made a genuine step forward and which are struggling to keep up.

In order of the biggest gains compared to last year, the teams are ranked:

 1. Lotus           36
 2. Ferrari         32
 3. Mercedes        27
 4. Force India     9
 5. Red Bull        8
 6. Toro Rosso      1
 7. Caterham        =
 8. Marussia        =
 9. Williams       -18
10. Sauber         -26
11. McLaren        -69
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