This is the new Mercedes-powered race car that Lewis Hamilton hopes to win this year’s drivers’ title after narrowly missing out in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The MP4-23 will mark ten years since the British team achieve the double (drivers and constructors) and will be desperate to bounce back after a difficult and controversial season in 2007.
The chrome-themed racing car will carry the unusually high numbers of 22 and 23, due to the team officially classified last in the standings – after being thrown out of the championship due to the latest series of spy scandals. Its a pure coincident that the 2008’s chassis is designated as the MP4-23 and that the unveiling in Stuttgart happens to be the same day as Lewis celebrates his 23rd birthday!
The designation ‘23′ holds further resonance for the squad. The McLaren M23 of the pre-Ron Dennis years appeared in 80 Grands Prix from 1974-78; a total of 177 individual car appearances. It won sixteen races, taking Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi to the drivers’ title in 1974 and Britain’s James Hunt in 1976. The M23 was the last title-winning car produced under the direction of Teddy Mayer before Ron Dennis took over the team in 1980.
Can the MP-23 enjoy the same success and make a champion out of Lewis Hamilton or new signing Heikki Kovalainen? Ron Dennis hopes so and he added that the team is focused to move on from that spying controversy that overshadowed last season.
“This is a year of forward thinking for us, we are looking forward,” Dennis said. “We are not spending any time dwelling on the past. We are intent with everyone in the company in producing a competitive racing car, a car that is constantly evolving and will look radically different by the time we get to the first Grand Prix.”
As for Lewis Hamilton, the championship runner-up says he will be a lot stronger in 2008 following a stunning debut season with McLaren last year.
“It gives me great pleasure to be here today on my birthday,” said Hamilton, turning 23 today. “After such a great season in 2007 I think the approach will be very, very similar to last year.
“We have a better car, a new team-mate and as a team are stronger and as a driver I have developed so much over one season that I will be a lot stronger next season than last year. So with the same mentality, approach and determination we can do well.”
Finn Heikki Kovalainen, who has joined McLaren after making his Grand Prix debut with Renault in 2007, will partner Hamilton. Kovalainen admits he has already been impressed with the team and is hopeful he will enjoy a strong season at McLaren.
“Of course for me it is a fantastic opportunity,” said the Finn. “It is a big step forward in my career to join McLaren. So far I have been impressed with what I have seen at the factory in Woking, meeting engineers, meeting people.
“Everyone is determined to return to the top and I will do the maximum I can before the first race, to start the season well in Melbourne and hopefully have some good results.”
Prepare for another battle royale between McLaren and Ferrari in 2008!