MONTMELO, Spain -- Lewis Hamilton has felt none of the negative traits of last year's Mercedes W08 in this year's car, but says he's still getting to know the W09.
The reigning champion completed another 84 laps at the wheel of the new Mercedes on Thursday and is due to drive it for the last time before the Australian Grand Prix on Friday morning.
Last year's car had a narrow operating window that meant Hamilton sometimes struggled to extract performance from the tyres at certain tracks. The handling characteristics led Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff to label the car "a diva" and the nickname soon stuck in the media.
Asked if the team saw the new car as a diva, he said: "No I think at the moment, we don't. I can't feel any of those [traits]. But we are just getting to know each other at the moment so I can't call her a diva. We shall see.
"Balance wise it's not perfect at the moment but I am enjoying driving the car. When you leave the garage and you take the pit limiter off and you bomb it down to Turn 1... ah man, I wish you guys could feel it. It's great, great fun."
"Obviously we have a lot more downforce, you get flat through Turn 3 for example, I think yesterday I was flat through Turn 9 which I have never been flat in the ten years or whatever that I have been racing. It's awesome."
New tarmac at the Circuit de Catalunya has made it difficult for all teams to compare this year's pre-season testing with previous years. Hamilton said there were still plenty of unknowns around the car and tyres but he is relishing the task of getting on top of it.
"I am looking forward to seeing the car progress, understanding the car more, understanding the tools that I have in order to manoeuvre around the balance of the car. At the moment, with the tyres on this track it's hard to understand how to utilise them as opposed to the last test in Abu Dhabi, for example, was much easier to understand it.
"Today and here in Barcelona, it's very very tricky. Whether we are going to struggle in Australia, who knows. But I am excited about that journey of the experiment of understanding the tyres and getting on top of them, hopefully ahead of everyone else."
Hamilton hopes Mercedes is in a close fight with rival teams this year and said Red Bull had already caught his eye.
"The more competition there is, the more fun it is to watch. I like you have grown up watching the sport, being a fan of it and seeing it when it's been a one-team championship and seeing it when there's been a couple fighting so I am really hopeful.
"I think Red Bull could be a real challenge this year, their car looks great and I haven't seen anything from what Ferrari have been doing, but for sure they'll be good. It's going to be exciting."