Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen have received a ringing endorsement from one of the most powerful men within the motoring world, as McLaren-Mercedes seeks to fight back from a controversial 2007 Formula 1 campaign by racing to glory in 2008.

For the first time since the Anglo-German relationship began back in 1995, McLaren's engine partner enjoyed the honour of the new car being unveiled in its home city, as the wraps came off the striking MP4-23 in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz CEO and Chairman of the Daimler Board Dr Dieter Zetsche is confident the bitter taste of 2007 will be replaced by the sweeter scent of success this time around.

"All of us at Daimler are extremely proud of the strong track record of the McLaren-Mercedes team," he underlined. "Over last ten years McLaren-Mercedes has been the second most successful of all the teams, winning one in every four races. That kind of success only comes with a great team effort.

"They have had five runner-up finishes in the drivers' world championship, and in 2007 our two drivers achieved more points than any other driver pairing. Unfortunately, twice 109 is still shy of 110 points..."

The German went on to praise Mercedes' 'commitment and faultless work' throughout 2007 and into 2008, whilst waxing lyrical about Hamilton and Kovalainen, who may count less than 50 years between them, but who he is confident will be more than capable of delivering where it counts - on the track - over the forthcoming 17 grands prix.

"Lewis has already promised to bring home the bacon in 2008," Zetsche affirmed, "and to reach our goal we decided we would get off the start-line fast by welcoming our new driver Heikki Kovalainen to the McLaren-Mercedes team too.

"In recent F1 history the Finnish and chequered flags have often been one and the same, and our team has certainly had some great experiences with Finnish drivers. In both 1998 and 1999 Mika Hakkinen became world champion with McLaren-Mercedes, and Kimi Raikkonen scored nine grand prix victories with us before being crowned 2007 world champion. Unfortunately that was with the wrong team...

"Between them Mika and Kimi took 29 of McLaren-Mercedes' 52 wins. I've heard Finns learn to be fast drivers because they want to get home quickly in the winter, and the British are fast because they always trying to get home before it rains! I'm confident in Lewis and Heikki we will have a very good driver line-up on the track.

"We are determined to lead the field this season, and our team will make every effort to get there."



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