Lewis Hamilton has sought to counter claims made by ex team-mate Heikki Kovalainen that the Briton was always at the front of the queue at McLaren-Mercedes when it came to car development in 2008 and 2009 – and he argued that if anything, it will be new partner Jenson Button who will be favoured in F1 2010.
Having been eased out of McLaren and found a new home at Lotus, Kovalainen has suggested that on occasion he felt as if he was fighting with one arm tied behind his back at Woking, given that whenever there were any new parts to be tested or fitted over a grand prix weekend, it was invariably the favourite son who was able to take advantage of them first.
Not so, insists Hamilton, who has been dogged by accusations that he is receiving preferential treatment at the team since double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso cut and run following just a sole unhappy campaign there in 2007, during which the Oviedo native and his Stevenage-born team-mate rarely saw eye-to-eye, and the former expressed out loud his fears that he was not being dealt with entirely on equal terms.
Hamilton has been supported by McLaren ever since he was spotted by Ron Dennis as an eleven-year-old karter back in 1996 – but at the launch of the new, Mercedes-powered MP4-25 at the headquarters of title sponsor Vodafone, he bluntly rebuffed Kovalainen's contention.
“That was never, ever the case bar one race when the guys in the factory worked 36 hours straight to get some new components ready, and unfortunately there just wasn't enough time to make them for both cars,” the 25-year-old asserted, alluding to the 2009 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, when his car benefitted from a major aerodynamic upgrade but the Finn's did not.
“The team have always done their best to make sure both cars have the same components. I had the number one on my car then, but Jenson has the number one this year, so he will surely get the parts first if it happens again. I wouldn't believe everything you read. I don't think any of you should forget that he (Button) is the world champion.
“We've been very welcoming to Jenson as a team. What he achieved last year and has achieved throughout his career in Formula 1 has been fantastic. I've known Jenson for quite some time, and I even won my first British championship with his dad John as my engineer years ago! I think it's a really great partnership, and it's great for our team – I'm looking forward to working with Jenson for years to come.
“In 2007, perhaps in certain cases we (he and Alonso) didn't work together well enough and didn't work together for the team, but Jenson and I both understand that we need to work together. Hopefully we will be able to push the team forward to both championships this year – and we will do the best job we can to keep the title in Britain. Of course we want to beat each other, but the bottom line is we want to win both titles at the end of the year.”
Indeed, the F1 2010 driving line-up at McLaren of the two most recent world champions – the first time in the six decade history of the top flight that both have been driving for the same team the following season – underlines Hamilton's conviction that the squad has strength-in-depth this year. As the homegrown duo prepare to take on the might of the returning Michael Schumacher at Mercedes Grand Prix amongst others, he recognises that they will in all likelihood need to draw upon every last bit of that strength.