McLaren have high hopes for Hamilton

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The Independent Online

The head of McLaren, Ron Dennis, believes it is possible for Lewis Hamilton to win a grand prix in his first season.

Speaking in Valencia yesterday at the launch of the team's Vodafone sponsorship and new MP4-22 contender, Dennis said: "Lewis really wants to win, and he never gives up. But it's going to be a different thing winning a grand prix in his first season in 2007 and beating Fernando Alonso.

"Inevitably, things are going to happen; you never see one driver win all the races. If we have a competitive car, and if Fernando were to be hampered, I could see Lewis taking the position. But history says that it's unlikely for a young driver in his first season to have the pace to beat the world champion, and that is not Lewis's expectation.

"But there is not a person in the team who wasn't impressed with his performance in his tests with us late last year, and his race pace was exceptional."

Asked to give his young team-mate advice, Alonso said: "He has to be very calm. We race the cars for an hour and a half 17 or 18 times a year, but the rest of the time can be very stressful for a young driver. But Lewis is really clever and I don't think he will have any problems."

The champion believes McLaren will start the season as favourite, while Hamilton said that the switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres seems to have favoured them.

"I'm feeling very confident and I was pleased in the tests to put everything I had learnt into being fastest on the last day," he said. "My aim is to do a solid job and learn as much as I can from Fernando. I want to be up against the best and to beat the best. I won't be disappointed not to win."