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Dennis: Hamilton, Kovalainen to compete and collaborate 25 Jan 2008

L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 14 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis has said he is expecting a cordial relationship between drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen this season. It follows the at-times tense - and much hyped - 2007 rivalry between Hamilton and former team mate Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton and Alonso pushed each other to the limit - and sometimes beyond it - last year, in a battle so close that the pair finished the season level on championship points. Inevitably, it meant relations between the two were not always easy, and led some to question the team’s policy of refusing to favour one driver.

However, Dennis has insisted that this policy will not be changing and told Formula1.com that he expects his ’08 driver line-up to work well together.

“We've always treated our drivers equally, and we intend to continue to do so,” said Dennis. “This year, both Lewis and Heikki are entirely happy with that policy, and I anticipate no problems from either of them in that regard. I expect them to be competitive and collaborative in equal measure.”

Asked whether he expects Hamilton to have the edge on Kovalainen this season thanks to his greater experience with the team, Dennis stressed that it wasn't just a question of competition, but also one of integration.

“As regards pushing Lewis, that isn't the way we look at it,” he said. “No, Heikki is already integrating himself into our team and our company, and we fully expect him to perform well for us this season.

“Watching him from the sidelines, and then studying our findings, we at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes thought Heikki looked impressive in 2007 - and he's impressing us already in 2008.”

Dennis is also expecting even greater things from Hamilton, following his record-breaking debut year, which featured four Grand Prix wins. “He had a marvellous first season in Formula One,” he added. “He's still only 23, he's still learning, and he's still improving.”