Lewis Hamilton not fooled by change in attitude towards his move to Mercedes
But team boss Ross Brawn already won over by his new signing
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 15/03/13 8:06am
Lewis Hamilton has sought to play down the rising expectation that he could be a World Championship contender during his debut season for Mercedes in 2013.
Although Hamilton's decision to abandon proven race winners McLaren for a Mercedes team which has registered just a solitary victory since returning to the sport in 2010 was met with general incredulity, the results of winter testing have sparked a dramatic sea change in opinion ahead of the new season.
With Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg topping the timesheets on the final weekend of testing at Barcelona, the odds on the 2008 World Champion winning the drivers' title for a second time have been cut sharply in the build-up to the season-opening Australian GP, while criticism of his transfer has gone noticeably quiet.
It's a transformation which hasn't been lost on Hamilton - and nor is it fooling Mercedes' new recruit.
"First people were talking us down and saying we were going to do terrible and now all of a sudden they've changed their opinions," an amused Hamilton retorted to Sky Sports News. "People are all over the place!"
Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that Mercedes have stepped forward over the winter, with their new charger a much-improved evolution from a W03 car which fell far off the pace after Rosberg's mid-April victory in China.
"I don't think anyone knows what is going to happen," cautioned Hamilton. "I think what we have to make people remember is that this team and this car have struggled for the last couple of years and that doesn't change with a click of the fingers.
"We have to keep working, but we've done a good job over the winter, and I'm really proud of the team and grateful to have been part of that journey."
Indeed, while Lewis might be playing down any expectation of a debut win, it's clear he has already won over his new team.
"Lewis comes across as a real enthusiast, there's real sprit and excitement about what he is doing. He's a real racer - and that's what I like about him," enthused Mercedes chief Ross Brawn. "He's someone who clearly enjoys his racing, and I think he now has the added dimension of being involved in a project that we want to take forward a long way.
"McLaren are a great team, but Lewis' contribution to taking McLaren forward was almost exclusively out on the race track. With where we are, there is a lot more Lewis can get involved in and I think he is relishing and enjoying that aspect."