Lewis Hamilton rejected talk of Mercedes being a team in turmoil on Thursday and said his new Formula One employers seemed even hungrier for success than McLaren.
Before addressing Mercedes employees at the team's factory near Silverstone in central England, the 2008 world champion told reporters he had seen or heard nothing to cause him any concern. "There is a great spirit here.
The guys seem hungrier than any group of people I've seen before. They seem seriously hungry to win and excited they have another shot at it this year," the former McLaren driver declared. "Every year there was always a great atmosphere at McLaren. But it's a different environment to come to and a different feeling because it's new and fresh. The guys seem to be just as on it if not more."
Mercedes have made some sweeping changes since Hamilton signed for them last year, with Austrian Toto Wolff coming in as a shareholder and executive director in charge of all Mercedes motorsport activities. Norbert Haug, the previous Mercedes motorsport boss, has gone while retired Austrian triple champion Niki Lauda has joined the top management as a shareholder amid speculation about Ross Brawn's role as principal. Reports have indicated that McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe will follow Hamilton to Mercedes, a team that already has several former team technical chiefs on the payroll and is desperate for success.
Hamilton, who has cautioned against expecting too much from the team on the track this season after their disappointing 2012 with the now-retired Michael Schumacher, saw no turmoil. "Everything feels really positive for me...I think it's important that they (the team) are always analysing and seeing what can be improved and what adjustments need to be made because they want to win," he added.
"That's a big positive for me, to see that they are not scared of making changes, they are not scared of doing whatever they have to do to win. It seems like they are making some positive moves, I think."
The Briton, who turned 28 this month, denied any knowledge of plans to bring in Lowe. "There are lots of good people here and I've obviously had great experiences with Paddy but he works with McLaren as far as I'm concerned," he added.
Hamilton said he had driven the 2013 Mercedes GP car, which will be unveiled at the first test in Jerez on Feb. 4, on one of the team's three simulators and had a good impression. He promised "to be flat out all the way" but still saw no reason to change his opinion on the challenge ahead. "I think it's important to be patient and it's important to be realistic," said the winner of 21 races for McLaren, including four last year, who grinned when asked whether he had the patience.
"I'm pretty sure that I do. You have got to remember that I had a couple of half dodgy cars, 2009 in particular, but it did get better. So perseverance is going to be key for all of us," he said. Hamilton pointed out that Mercedes, despite winning in China last year, were up to two seconds off the pace in the later grands prix and it would be hard to make that time up in a year without major rule changes.
"But I know that the guys are working as hard as they can and every little bit counts," he added. The season starts in Australia on March 17 with Mercedes hoping to improve on their overall fifth place in the championship last year. "This is a marathon not a sprint. It's the long haul. I hope that this year we can be competitive," said Hamilton. "If we arrive at the first race and we are in front, it's going to be spectacular. But if we are not, we know we just have to keep working at it."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)