Lewis Hamilton.

Former world champion Lewis Hamilton has insisted Mercedes could yet challenge the sport's leading teams when the new Formula One season gets under way.

This year will be the 28-year-old Briton's first season as a Mercedes driver after he joined the team on a three-year contract worth £15 million (R210-million) per season from UK F1 giants McLaren, the only team he's driven for in his career to date.

Although renowned as one of the world's leading car manufacturers, Mercedes have struggled of late in Formula One with just one win since they returned to the Grand Prix grid in 2010.

However, Hamilton tried to rally workers at the German firm's Stuttgart plant on Monday and in a video released Tuesday by Mercedes stressed this year did not have to be the purely “transitional” season forecast by many pundits.

“I think this year is going to be an interesting year, an interesting journey, but I think it's going to be a journey we enjoy,” Hamilton said.

“I live to win. That's what I work towards every year, so that's what we're going to work towards this year.


“Of course it's going to be tough to compete with the guys who are already at the front - the Red Bulls, the McLarens, the Ferraris - but I don't think it's impossible,” insisted Hamilton, world champion in 2008.

He added: “To be back and to know I'm part of the Mercedes world is a real privilege. I'm so grateful to be welcomed into the team and really excited.

“I've been to Brackley (the Mercedes F1 base near the Silverstone race track in central England) in the early part of December, asking lots of questions, trying to get as involved as I can in the limited time that I was there.

“It was great to see how enthusiastic everyone was. It looked like there was incredible determination to turn this around. That gave me a lot of motivation for my winter.”

The new season will see Germany's Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull team bidding for his fourth successive Formula One drivers' world championship title, with the opening race the Australian Grand Prix in March. -Sapa-AFP