Hamilton in McLaren swansong

by Michelle Fortune , 10 December 2012

Lewis Hamilton made his last appearance in a McLaren on Sunday ahead of his move to Mercedes at the start of the New Year.

Hamilton's contract with McLaren expires on December 31 and one of his last acts with the Woking-based team was to drive the car during a demonstration run in Malta.

Ahead of the outing in Malta, the former world champion addressed staff at the team's headquarters and thanked them for their hard work during his six years in Formula 1.

"My time at McLaren has been fantastic," Hamilton told staff at the McLaren Technology Centre.

"When I arrived in Formula One in 2007, I now realise I never really grasped what I was taking on. Ron (Dennis) had told me: 'Don't be surprised if you're 0.5sec slower than Fernando (Alonso)', and I just smiled because I knew it wouldn't be the case. But, even so, that year was very hard, for many reasons.

"The following year, 2008, as a result of so much hard work from all of you, we won the Championship. Thanks so much. You were brilliant - you still are. I have so much affection and love for this team. And that's why McLaren has always felt like home."

Hamilton is used to challenging for victories but he is joining a team that has managed just one victory in three seasons.

It is a huge challenge for the 2008 world champion and he knows it could be some time before he stands on the top step of the podium again.

"I think it's far too early to say because I've never even driven the car," Hamilton told Sky Sports News. "It looks like in Brazil Mercedes were 1.1 seconds behind so we've got a long, long, steep hill to climb.

"But I don't think that's impossible, I think the guys have great, great potential and that's why I'm going there."

Hamilton will sit into his new car for the first time in February before making his Mercedes debut at the Australian Grand Prix on March 18.

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