Lewis Hamilton has admitted that three pole positions and a front-running car was beyond his expectations when he signed to drive for Mercedes before the end of the 2013 season.

Although he has only claimed one of the three poles - team-mate Nico Rosberg having been fastest of all in both Bahrain and Barcelona - the Briton has two podium finishes from four races and currently sits third in the overall standings. Despite not yet finishing outside the top five, Hamilton insists that he did not expect to be so competitive so early in his Mercedes career.

"I don't think we expected it, definitely not," he told the media after qualifying in Spain, "Especially for Nico, in the last couple of years, they have had a really difficult time in the team with the cars and, coming to the team, I definitely didn't expect to have such a competitive car.

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"But, obviously, I'm massively pleased that we do and it's great to be able to put on performances like we have today, encouraging the team and the guys back at the factory to keep pushing to improve and bring more developments. We're not there yet, but this is a good starting point for us."

Despite not having had the best of starts to the Barcelona weekend, Hamilton was able to set the pace in the opening two phases of qualifying before being pipped by team-mate Rosberg in the battle for pole.

"Obviously, this is still great for us today, to be one and two on the grid, but I've just been struggling all weekend," he confirmed, "Even my long runs have been pretty poor but, on one lap pace, the car doesn't seem to be too bad.

"I've just been a little bit lost generally, not really knowing what things to change and which direction to go, so I kind of didn't really make many changes into P3 and into qualifying, I just left the car the same. I didn't really make any changes to it, I wasn't 100 per cent comfortable, but I knew that it was good enough to do what we did today."

Asked whether starting from the front row could lead, as the Spanish GP record books suggest, lead to a victory for his new team, Hamilton was quick to play down the suggestion.

"We've got improve our race pace but, obviously, we have very good qualifying pace," he noted, "I hope, in the near future, we will get our win, but we'll work for it tomorrow.

"We've got to approach [the race] with caution because tomorrow is going to be tough. Today, I didn't have two option sets at the end, which would have helped a little bit [and] my side of the grid isn't really the place to be.

[Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel] have a good position on the cleaner side, but we'll do the best job we can from the start. I think more of concern is tyre degradation. Looking after those tyres is going to be an interesting one. I really hope that we can try and get into turn one first, in a 1-2. That'd be really good for the team."