Hamilton says it will be hard work at Mercedes
(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
By JIM ARMSTRONG
AP Sports Writer
SUZUKA, Japan (AP) Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged he has hard work ahead of him next season when he moves from leading team McLaren to Mercedes, which has struggled since re-entering a team in Formula One.
"I'm excited about the challenge," HamiIton said Thursday ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix. "I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me. I know I'm leaving a very good car and I know exactly what's going on with the car I'm going to."
Mercedes announced last week that Hamilton will replace seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher in a major shake-up that also has Sergio Perez going to McLaren.
Hamilton has spent his entire F1 career with McLaren - he first linked up with the team at age 13 - and won the 2008 title, but the team was unwilling to match a lucrative offer from Mercedes.
Nico Rosberg won this year's Chinese GP to give Mercedes its first F1 victory since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. Mercedes pulled out of F1 shortly after that victory and, while it had since served as an engine supplier, it didn't return as a constructor until it bought out Brawn GP at the end of 2009.
McLaren, meanwhile, has eight world championships.
"I don't see myself as a replacement for Michael," Hamilton said. "I don't think anyone can replace Michael, he's a legend of the sport. He has achieved so much already. I feel privileged to have watched him win all those world championships and hopefully someday I can achieve some of the things he has."
Hamilton has two wins and three non-finishes from his past five races leaving him in fourth place in the standings, 52 points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with six races to go. He led the previous race in Singapore until he suffered a gearbox failure on lap 23 of 59 and had to retire.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh insisted the team will remain united for the final six races.
"We've got six races to go, we've got a competitive car, two competitive race drivers and two championships that are still in our sight," Whitmarsh said. "What we're all hoping, Lewis and the team, is that we really focus now."
Hamilton won the Japanese GP in 2007 when the event was staged at Fuji Speedway but has never taken top honors at the Suzuka circuit.
"I love competing here," Hamilton said. "It's one of the best tracks in the world. We've got a good car so hopefully we can get a win."
Updated October 4, 2012