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Hamilton eyeing second title bid

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Hamilton and Kovalainen unveil 2009 McLaren

Lewis Hamilton targeted a second World Championship as McLaren unveiled their new car for the 2009 season.

The Englishman and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen took the wraps off the new Mercedes-powered MP4-24 at the team's base in Surrey.

And 24-year-old Hamilton said: "This is now my third season and I've got my targets. I want the title again."

Meanwhile, McLaren said Ron Dennis will step down as team principal on 1 March, to be replaced by Martin Whitmarsh.

Hamilton won last year's title by a single point from Brazilian Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who has already had a day testing his team's new car.

The McLaren car is the third to be unveiled ahead of the new season after Ferrari and Toyota's new models broke cover earlier this week.

And Hamilton said: "The car looks beautiful and it's great to see the final outcome.

"But I certainly don't feel any extra pressure being champion. This season will be a whole new challenge for everyone, including me, because of the rule changes.

"I think this will be a very open season - no-one quite knows what to expect, and that should make it exciting - it's a great prospect for F1 fans."

606: DEBATE
Mr-Foglo
Team-mate Kovalainen added: "I'm fortunate enough to have watched behind the scenes as this year's car has taken shape and I've been amazed at just how hard everybody has worked.

"With so many new rules, adapting quickly will be essential and I feel more prepared than ever for the new season."

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa will give the McLaren its debut in a private test at Portugal's Algarve circuit on Saturday - the first of a series of critical tests before the start of the new season in Melbourne, Australia on 29 March.

Ferrari, Renault, Williams and Toyota - whose car was unveiled on Thursday - will join McLaren at the new Algarve circuit in Portugal next week.

Renault, fourth last year, and Williams both launch their cars at that test on Monday, while BMW Sauber - third overall in 2008 - have chosen the Valencia track in Spain for the first public appearance of their new model.

All the new cars have been designed to conform to the biggest set of F1 rule changes in 25 years, which are aimed at improving racing and making overtaking easier.

The Algarve test will be the first time Hamilton has driven an F1 car at speed since clinching the title and becoming F1's youngest ever champion in Brazil last November.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen take the covers off the new McLaren
Hamilton and Kovalainen pose with their new F1 challenger
He has done a handful of publicity appearances and other engagements since then but has spent much of his time having a break from F1 with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, singer with pop group the Pussycat Dolls.

Following the unveiling of the Ferrari in Italy on Monday, much attention will be paid to how the McLaren compares.

New rules have forced modifications which lower and widen the front wing, and demand a tall, narrow rear wing.

Slick, untreaded tyres will also be reintroduced after 11 years on grooved tyres, and teams have the option of employing a kinetic energy recovery system (Kers).

The Kers system stores energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat during braking, then reapplies it during acceleration to provide a boost in power, controlled from the cockpit by the driver.

2009 CAR LAUNCH DATES
13 Jan: Ferrari
15 Jan: Toyota
16 Jan: McLaren
19 Jan: Renault & Williams
20 Jan: BMW Sauber
9 Feb: Red Bull
TBC: Toro Rosso, Force India, former Honda team
And Hamilton supports the changes to the regulations, saying: "I think it's important that F1 keeps moving forward and it's always been tough to overtake in the past so we need to get some of our competitiveness on the circuit back.

"Hopefully with the slick tyres, less downforce and Kers we'll be able to do that."

The fashion so far has been for a tightly-waisted rear to the car, to ensure effective airflow to the rear wing - with Ferrari's particularly narrow. McLaren's new challenger is expected to follow that trend.

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see also
Back to business for Hamilton
16 Jan 09 |  Formula One
F1 boss wants Massa to win title
16 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Toyota commit to F1 with new car
15 Jan 09 |  Formula One
New McLaren car joins 2009 launch
16 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Raikkonen tipped for form revival
14 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Massa positive about new Ferrari
13 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Steward 'sorry' for F1 boss slur
13 Jan 09 |  England
Toro Rosso confirm Buemi for 2009
09 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Massa gives new Ferrari first run
12 Jan 09 |  Formula One


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