Hamilton gets new car for birthday

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The Independent Online

McLaren say they are looking ahead, not back, on their disastrous 2007 season, as the two leading Formula One teams unveiled their 2008 cars.

Ferrari showed their F2008 in Maranello on Sunday as it was undergoing its first test at the Fiorano track, with world champion Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel, as McLaren showed off their new MP4-23 in Stuttgart yesterday.

In a much lower profile event than last year's opulent launch in Valencia, McLaren revealed their new car to have a longer wheelbase than last year's MP4-22 in which Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso each won four races, and narrowly lost the world championship fight to Raikkonen.

Ironically, it follows Ferrari's lead in that respect. Aerodynamic modifications also distinguish the car from its predecessor, together with an all-new carbon fibre gearbox.

The launch coincided with Hamilton's birthday and team chief Ron Dennis said: "It is Lewis's birthday today, we've gone to a lot of trouble... He is 23, it is the MP4-23 and he will carry No 23 on the car, but that is more by accident than judgement, I must say."

2008 will be a crucial year for Dennis, as he seeks to rebuild McLaren's reputation after they were thrown out of the constructors' world championship and fined $100m (50m) last year for allegedly copying Ferrari's design.

"We are not spending any time dwelling on the past," Dennis said. "We are intent with everyone in the company on producing a competitive racing car that is constantly evolving and will look radically different by the time we get to the first grand prix."