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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report

Hamilton sees a kindred spirit in Kovalainen

Alan Baldwin | January 08, 2008 16:14 IST

Lewis Hamilton [Images] expects McLaren to be a far more harmonious team now that Heikki Kovalainen has replaced Fernando Alonso [Images].

"You know how it is with certain people," the Formula One championship runner-up told reporters after the launch of the new McLaren MP4-23 car at the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart on Monday.

"Some people you ask questions and they give you one-word answers and some people make the conversation and are just easy.

"With Heikki I don't need to make the conversation, he is happy to start it and we just can talk for ages. And I think he has very similar views to me.

"He loves the car without traction control, he loves racing wheel to wheel, he loves a real true spirit race. With that I think it just makes everything a little bit simpler," added the Briton.

Hamilton, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Monday, lost out by a single point last year to Ferrari's [Images] Kimi Raikkonen [Images] after an astonishing rookie season alongside Spain's double world champion Alonso.

Alonso had joined the Mercedes-powered team as the main man, the proven winner recruited from Renault to restore McLaren's fortunes and lead their challenge for a first title since 1999.

Instead, the Spaniard found himself the outsider against a team mate who had been backed by McLaren for the past decade and who was not to be intimidated.

As Hamilton went from strength to strength, the relationship between the drivers and between Alonso and McLaren deteriorated to the point where the champion was no longer speaking to team boss Ron Dennis.

When Alonso then moved to Renault, Finnish rookie Kovalainen joined McLaren in a straight swap.

MORE DETERMINED

Hamilton rejected suggestions that McLaren, who were stripped of all their points last year and fined $100 million for a spying controversy, was his team and Kovalainen would have to play second fiddle to him.

"I don't believe that I am starting as a first driver," he said.

"We expect to have exactly the same opportunity and I believe that is what we are going to be given. I'm sure as team mates we are going to push to beat each other, push the team forward."

Hamilton, who won four races last year and achieved the unprecedented feat for a rookie of nine podium finishes in a row, said he had learned a lot from Alonso.

He was also looking forward to renewing their rivalry now they were in different teams.

"I hope it makes him (Alonso) more determined. It makes me more determined to beat him. And not just him, all the drivers," said the Briton.

"Kimi beat me at the end of the season, I'm more determined to beat him this year. I know where his strengths are.

"I know from experience of racing wheel to wheel with Fernando and (Ferrari's) Felipe (Massa), over one year you get to understand what sort of people they are and where you can beat them.

"I just feel more determined this year," continued Hamilton. "I know what I want. I knew what I wanted last year but it was sort of having that desire and not really knowing how to fill the shoes 100 percent because I didn't know some of the circuits.

"I feel that every year I grow and that some of these knocks, mistakes or disappointments or even just the wins just help mould you into a better person...I honestly believe I can do a better job."

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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