Silverstone, England – Valtteri Bottas drove a Mercedes Formula One car for the first time on Thursday and described it as the best looking he had ever seen.
"I've never driven a car with that much downforce," the Finn added, after doing a few laps around a wet and windy Silverstone circuit for promotional filming after the presentation of the new W08 car.
The sport's most dominant team, which has taken both championships for the past three years, is likely to have another winner on its hands as Formula One enters a new era with wider front and rear tyres and different aerodynamics designed to make cars faster, more aggressive and harder to handle.
How often Bottas, who has yet to win a race after four seasons at Williams, might stand on top of the podium remains an open question.
Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton won 10 of the 21 races last year, one more than Bottas's predecessor Nico Rosberg who took the title and then retired, and said on Thursday that he felt better prepared than ever.
Bets are on Hamilton
Some observers fear the Briton could run away with the championship, with Hamilton already the clear favourite in the betting odds.
Bottas said he had to believe he could beat the Briton, regardless of the reputation of a man who has won more races (53) than any driver apart from seven times champion Michael Schumacher (91) and also started on pole 61 times.
"The stopwatch is not going to lie," he said. "We will see very soon how everything goes.
"But if I thought that I couldn't compare or be quicker than Lewis, I would rather stay at home. I do believe in my skills and that it is possible – but I do need to go step by step, day by day, race by race.
"It is a big learning curve for me, and we still haven't done a single lap together in the same car, so it is only guessing how we will compare. But we will find out soon.
The Finn said he had no real plan for how to beat Hamilton, and would just take his normal approach to the job and do the best he could.
"I'm feeling good, and as usual I will do every single thing I can and trust my talent," he said.
Hamilton hails 'awesome' new car
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile declared his new Mercedes "pretty awesome" on Thursday after lapping the circuit during the same promotional shoot.
"It felt incredible," added the Briton. "Yesterday was the first time seeing the car come together. It’s the most detailed piece of machinery I’ve seen so far in Formula One.
"The car feels wider, which it is obviously. The front tyres obviously feel huge," added the 32-year-old.
Official testing will start in Barcelona on Monday, with Bottas doing the first stint before handing over to Hamilton for the afternoon.
Mercedes shrugs off talk of Australia protest
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has shrugged off fears of a potential protest against his cars at next month's season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
The pre-season has seen plenty of speculation about clever hydraulic suspension systems since Ferrari sought a clarification about the regulations from the FIA.
Some paddock insiders, such as Force India technical director Andy Green this week, have suggested that the question could lead to a protest against certain teams to force a decision.
Such action could not be taken until the Melbourne race weekend since there are no restrictions on what teams can use on their cars in pre-season testing.
Wolff told reporters at the launch of his team's new car on Thursday, however, that he was completely relaxed about the situation.
"There have been discussions in the TRM (technical regulations meeting) around suspensions and legality," said the Austrian.
"As far as Mercedes is concerned, I am very confident and comfortable with the situation. We know what the rules say and what you are allowed and not allowed to do.
"I think it is the usual kicking at the beginning of the season, and it is not something that is worrying for us," said Wolff.