Lewis Hamilton insisted this week that he has no regrets about his decision to leave McLaren and move to Mercedes in 2013, although he admits that he faces a big challenge in the coming few years if he's to succeed in putting Mercedes back on top in F1.

"I really do believe that I made a good choice," the 28-year-old told Sky News this week. "I've had a great career at McLaren, a fantastic team full of great people there.

"This is just a new chapter for me, a new experience where I've got to use all the communications skills and all the skills I know and have learned over the years and put them into something fresh and new," he continued, before acknowledging the enormity of the task that now confronted him and his new team.

"Obviously the car towards the end of the year [2012] was a good second off the McLaren and off the guys in the Red Bulls, so I know we've got that to climb and more on top of that because people will have developed probably a good second and a half or so through this winter," he admitted.

"This is more a marathon for me than a sprint, I'm here for the long haul - it's a long journey up ahead," he insisted with evident determination. "We can all do better, all of us. It's about us trying to extract more out of each other."

So where will the former world champion start in his formidable task to put the once dominant marque back on top in F1 Grand Prix racing?

"I know we've got a lot of work to do, but I've seen a great spirit here. The guys are working flat out, and they look like they're hungry - and so am I!" he said with a smile. "So we've definitely got something straight in common, and I'm excited about that.

"I knew that we've got a lot of work ahead of us and I'm still very realistic about that as well," he continued. "We've just got to take it one day at a time. We haven't even got to the first test, so we don't even know if the car will make its first ten laps! We don't know anything at the moment. It's all a bit unknown."

It's not until that first four-day test - which begins on February 5 at the Spanish circuit of Jerez - that Hamilton will really get a chance to get a feel for what lies in store for him in 2013.

"I can't really do too much about the car at the moment because I've not driven it, so I have no idea. The simulator is one thing but driving it in real life is a different thing so I'm waiting for the first test," he said.

"In those first few days it will be be quite important the feedback that I give back, the correlation compared to the simulator and also compared to what I've experienced in the past," he explained. "Everything I've learned through the whole 18 years or whatever that I've been racing is really just now [what] I've got to put into this short period of time.

"Obviously we want to start on the right foot. Every season - it doesn't matter what team you're in - you want to start on the right foot, and that's what everyone's working so hard toward," said Hamilton. "The most important thing is trying to work with the team trying to get involved in trying to develop the car as fast as possible. Obviously I live and breath to win, so that's what I do every day.

That said, Hamilton hinted that he wanted a better work/life balance in the years ahead, after a turbulent couple of years on and off the race track in recent seasons seemed to get the better of his driving performance at times.

"There will be a little more time in my life to get my head together and figure what I want to do in the future," he said candidly. And that process started with a thorough stress 'detox' over the winter following the end of the 2012 season.

"I've had a great period of time," he said. "I went out to Colorado, had some skiing. Then went out to Hawaii for a couple of weeks with the missus. That was great fun, obviously got to do some surfing and stuff like that. Then headed back to the States, back in the mountains for high altitude training, cross-country skiing and all that kind of stuff."

But playtime is over and Hamilton said that it was really "good to be back" to work as the start of the season gets ever closer, and that he was looking forward to whatever level of success that 2013 brings.

"I'm generally quite an optimistic guy, so I was already quite optimistic when I signed," he said. "Every driver has quite a big impact in the car and the development, but obviously it's a collective piece of work, it's the whole team working together.

"I've really just got to try and get as much involved as possible," he finished, before walking off to face the challenge ahead with his new team mates at Brackley.