Lewis Hamilton believes the experience he gained during his rookie season in Formula 1 in 2007 will stand him in far better stead for a championship push second time around, as he bids to turn the tables on Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who pipped him to the laurels by a single point last year.

After leading the way for the majority of the campaign, the young Briton then endured a disastrous final two grands prix that allowed his Finnish rival to overturn a 17-point deficit and pinch the crown at the very last gasp in Brazil.

Speaking at the launch of McLaren-Mercedes at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, though - the first time since the McLaren-Mercedes partnership began back in 1995 that the car has been introduced to the world in the German manufacturer's backyard - Hamilton said he was eagerly anticipating the start of the new campaign - and even more pleased to be celebrating a very special day in an even more special manner.

"It gives me great pleasure to be here today on my 23rd birthday," he remarked. "After such a great season in 2007, I'm going to approach 2008 in a very similar way to how I did last year. However, I think we will have a better car, and as a team I think we're stronger.

"As a driver I think I've developed so much over one season that I too will be much stronger this year than last year. I think with the same sort of approach and determination, we can do well."

Those were comments echoed by McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, who may have endured a lot of pain last year through the 'Spygate' controversy that embroiled the team and its subsequent disqualification from the constructors' world championship, but a man who appeared visibly more at ease than the haunted figure of the summer, and even light-hearted as he sat next to the sport's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone and joked about the coincidence of the numbers presented by the event.

"We've gone to a lot of trouble to mark Lewis' birthday," he quipped. "He's 23 years old, it's the MP4-23 and he'll have the number 23 on his car too, though the last one is more by accident than design...

"We are not spending our time dwelling on the past. Everybody in the company is intent on producing a very competitive racing car - one that is constantly evolving and one that will look radically different by the time we get to the first grand prix."



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