Hamilton: we're stronger than a year ago

A confident Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren have a better chance of winning this weekend's Australian Grand Prix than they did at last year's event

Hamilton: we're stronger than a year ago

Although Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari are favourites to repeat their domination of the 2007 race, Hamilton is predicting an improved challenge for victory in the first race of the season.

"It is the plan," said Hamilton, who got his weekend preparations off to a perfect start with victory in a Vodafone promotional kayak race on Williamstown Beach on Wednesday morning.

"We have been working very hard through the winter, making sure the training is better and also preparing the new car. Seeing the new car evolve, seeing the evolution of last year's car, seeing the input of myself, Heikki (Kovalainen), Pedro (de la Rosa) and Gary (Paffett), and seeing how we can help push the team forward is, I think, really special.

"It is a great experience and I feel we have an even better opportunity this weekend that we did last year at this time. So heading into this weekend I feel a bit more positive."

Hamilton was in high spirits during his first official engagement of the Melbourne weekend, 12 months on from his sensational debut at Albert Park.

Reflecting on the events of last year, especially his daring first corner move past then teammate Fernando Alonso en route to a debut podium, Hamilton thinks his performance set in stone the strong form that would be the story of his 2007 campaign.

"If you look at last year's race, I wasn't really nervous but everyone was expecting me to fail," he explained. "I started fourth and I was going to come out of Turn One in eighth place if I didn't do something about it.

"And I made a real split-second decision and was right there. I had to make the quickest decision ever. I went right around the outside and managed to come out in third place. I think that was one of the decisive moments of the year."

While Hamilton will have a tough act to better his performance from last year, teammate Heikki Kovalainen knows he cannot afford a repeat of his debut showing in Melbourne.

The Finn, then driving for Renault, ran off the track several times on his way to a tenth place that earned him the wrath of team boss Flavio Briatore.

"It is a very interesting time in my career," he explained. "Last year was my first year in F1. There were many things I learned last year but now, to arrive here in Melbourne with my new team, feeling prepared we are just waiting to get going. And I am looking forward to hopefully a successful season.

"Of course, the whole Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team are very motivated. They want to win and be the best in F1, so of course the aim is to do some good result.

"For myself I need to improve my performance from last year, especially the start of the season. A year ago here was a big disappointment so I need to do better than that, keep calm and that is the priority now. That is what I am focusing on at the moment."

Kovalainen will also be hoping that his performance in the Vodafone Beach Kayak Challenge is not an omen for the weekend. Having led Hamilton in the early stages of the race, the Finn took the wrong route at the turnaround point and came home last.

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