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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 18:24 GMT
Hamilton vows to return stronger
Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton pose with the new McLaren MP4-23
Now I'm just excited and even more determined than I have been in the past

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton predicts he will have a strong Formula One season after the disappointment of the 2007 campaign.

Briton Hamilton was pipped to the F1 title in the last race in a year that was marred by his frosty relationship with former team-mate Fernando Alonso.

As McLaren unveiled their new car for the 2008 season, Hamilton said: "Every year I grow, with the knocks, mistakes, disappointments, even race victories.

"I honestly believe I can do an even better job this season."

The 23-year-old finished second behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in his rookie season, but a remarkable campaign was overshadowed by a well publicised breakdown in his relationship with Spaniard Alonso.

McLaren were also fined 50m and stripped of their constructors' points in the Ferrari spy row.

Alonso has since returned to Renault, with Heikki Kovalainen travelling in the opposite direction, and Hamilton insists he and the team are now in better shape than ever.

"I wouldn't say that what happened last year was a blow, but you wouldn't be human if you didn't feel anything," he said.

"But I've recovered from it and I feel even stronger, mentally and physically, and now I'm just excited and even more determined than I have been in the past.

606: DEBATE

"Last year was a steep learning curve. I knew what I wanted last year, but it was having that desire and not really knowing how to fill the shoes 100%.

"This year, I feel more at home, more confident and more relaxed, and even more sure of what I want.

"I just believe it's a fresh start for us all, turning over a new leaf."

Hamilton and Kovalainen will test the MP4-23 in Spain later this week ahead of the new season, which starts on 16 March with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

And McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said: "Our ultimate aim is to be competitive for the drivers' and constructors' championships.

Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton by the new McLaren MP4-23
It was just the best year of my life but I know it can be better

Lewis Hamilton

"Everybody worked hard at the end of 2007 so that the car would be ready as quickly as possible to allow our drivers to test it for the longest possible time."

Hamilton, who missed out on the driver's title by a single point, added: "I've done a lot of really good preparation already, way before the first test even.

"My engineer said that it needed 14,000 working hours to ensure that the car was ready for Monday. I'm really looking forward to driving it for the first time on Thursday.

"I thoroughly enjoyed last year, just the whole year. It was just the best year of my life but I know it can be better."

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh said the new car already looked promising.

"We already know that the car is quicker than the one we raced in Brazil at the end of last season," he said.

"There's a lot more lap time to be added to the car before the start of the season."

Kovalainen said he was confident he would be treated as Hamilton's equal, even though he has just joined a team that the Englishman has been with for 10 years.

"I would not have come if I did not think I had a chance to fight for the championship," insisted Kovalainen.

"We don't know how the season will develop, but I have the same opportunity as Lewis.

"So it's up to me to build a relationship with the team and make it as strong as possible, and then we will see what happens."



SEE ALSO
F1 launches in photos
08 Jan 08 |  Formula One
McLaren admission ends F1 spy row
18 Dec 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton team-mate expects parity
17 Dec 07 |  Formula One
Kovalainen completes McLaren move
14 Dec 07 |  Formula One
McLaren face wait over 2008 car
07 Dec 07 |  Formula One
McLaren hit by constructors' ban
13 Sep 07 |  Formula One


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