February 23, 2017

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) With a new car beneath him and his biggest rival in retirement, Lewis Hamilton is ready to get back on the track.

Hamilton, speaking at the launch of the new Mercedes car on Thursday, said the experience of losing to teammate Nico Rosberg last season has made him better.

''I feel I am stronger. I feel more complete as a driver,'' the 32-year-old Hamilton said. ''I feel like I am the best prepared I have ever been. I didn't win the world championship last year and I want to change that.''

Hamilton, a three-time F1 champion, will be teaming with Valtteri Bottas this season. And that's fine with Hamilton, who had uneasy relationship with Rosberg.

''I don't think I have ever missed a teammate in my life because there is always one that takes his place,'' Hamilton said. ''It definitely will feel strange, and it already is, but you soon get past it.

''One day I will leave and another driver will come along. You don't forget, but get used to what you have. Right now my feelings from last year are not lingering. I have started a new slate and moved on.''

Hamilton won more races than Rosberg last season and rounded out the year with four consecutive victories, but his championship defense was blighted by a number of mechanical issues.

Hamilton said he could understand why Rosberg decided to walk away after clinching his maiden title.

''It has been a long, hard slog for him,'' Hamilton said. ''He finally got it and maybe he wanted to keep it just as it is and not risk retiring at the end of this year not being in the same position. I don't think like that. I win the championship and I want to fight for it again.''

On Thursday, Hamilton tested out his new Mercedes car. His verdict: ''It felt incredible.''

''Yesterday was the first time seeing the car come together,'' Hamilton said, ''it's the most detailed piece of machinery I've seen so far in Formula One.''

The color scheme of the new Mercedes is similar to that of previous versions, but the car is noticeably lower, wider and heavier to reflect the radical overhaul of the sport's technical rulebook over the offseason.

''The new rules for 2017 were designed to make the fastest F1 cars ever through a big increase in aerodynamic performance,'' Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. ''They should be more physical to drive and hopefully more spectacular for the fans to watch. The proof will come in the opening races but we have probably achieved that target.''

Mercedes has dominated the sport in recent seasons, winning 51 of the last 59 races en route to three consecutive driver and team titles.

Hamilton will next drive the new car at two pre-season tests in Barcelona next week. The season starts in Melbourne on March 26.

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