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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 11:28 GMT
McLaren drivers equal - Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton appears to have ended his rift with Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton has claimed he and new McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen will compete on equal terms.

The 23-year-old had an intense struggle for supremacy with Fernando Alonso at McLaren last season but he has hinted that will not be case with Kovalainen.

Hamilton told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We have been hired to win. Whichever driver does it, it doesn't really matter - for the team at least.

"We're both in our second year and we have the same amount of experience."

Hamilton also appears to have ended his rift with Alonso, saying it was an honour to work with the double world champion.

Alonso left McLaren at the end of last season, one year into a three-year contract because he fell out with the Woking-based team.

Andrew Benson - BBC Sport

"We made a huge issue out of it last year [driver status]. It's all been resolved," said Hamilton.

"When you come into your first season and work against, and with, someone you've been watching for years it's a privilege.

"From that point of view, it's a shame he's [Alonso] not there [at McLaren]."

Some have predicted the rivalry between the Hamilton and Alonso would be more vicious now that they were in separate teams.

But the duo's bitter relationship seems to have become more genial with the Spaniard, now with Renault, returning the compliment to Hamilton ahead of the season curtain-raiser in Australia this weekend.

"When I changed and I joined McLaren, Lewis was arriving in the team as well as being new in Formula One, so he was always giving fresh ideas and a fresh way to do things and you always learn from everybody," he said.

"We are not together but we are still racing each other in different teams. It's a new challenge."

Hamilton seems to be enjoying a better relationship with Finland's Kovalainen, who joined from Renault in a straight swap with Alonso.

"We want to make sure that we get off on the right foot. I think the car's in good shape, I'm in good shape, as is Heikki, so I think we can do that," said Hamilton.

"I want to finish more races, finish more times on the podium, get as many points as possible and I want more wins.

"I love qualifying on pole and I love winning, so the more I can do that the better."

Hamilton added: "Everyone knows that he [Kovalainen] is very, very competitive. At least I do, and he's got a great talent.

"I am sure he's going to be pushing me just as much as I push him.

"He's been a lot more active in the team than any other driver I've seen. We've been playing tennis, basketball and we've done our fitness trip together.

"It's great to see him participating in everything."

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