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Hamilton gives Mercedes fresh F1 start
Harold Heckle
13:24 AEST Tue Feb 5 2013

Behind the wheel of his new Mercedes car, Lewis Hamilton felt right at home.

The 28-year-old British driver, who left McLaren for Formula One rival Mercedes this season, drove his new team's new wheels on Monday and wasn't disappointed.

"I'm happy, that's what I can tell you," said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion.

"It's still got a Mercedes engine, so it has all the power I used to have."

Hamilton will be driving with Nico Rosberg this season, and Mercedes is hoping to rekindle the fiercely competitive spirit that they shared as go-kart rivals 13 years ago.

"I've known him longer than any other driver here," he said of the German driver. "It's a real privilege to work alongside him."

Team principal Ross Brawn said "the dynamic" between the two Mercedes drivers will be very important.

"They're good friends," Brawn said, adding that Hamilton was one of the fastest drivers on the circuit. "His speed is unquestioned, and with Michael Schumacher coming to the end of his career, he's a fantastic replacement."

First around the Jerez circuit in the new car was Rosberg, who said it felt very good and he could "straight away push hard."

The 27-year-old German also said the change of partner, with Hamilton replacing seven-time world champion Schumacher, was good.

"It's a fresh start. We're going to push each other," Rosberg said, adding the entire team was aware of a need to improve on its lone victory last season. "We need to close the gap with other teams."

Brawn said Mercedes would this season use two development teams working in parallel, "one on developing next year's car and one just for this one."

Last year, the car's performance on the track suffered when engineers began concentrating on developing the new car, he said.

"We don't want to fade in 2013, like we did last year," Brawn said, adding the car was already technically advanced.

"There's a lot of innovation under the skin of the car which I'm pleased about."