Lewis Hamilton is now sure that racing on track against Michael Schumacher is going to be different to going up against any other driver in the field.
The 2008 World Champion got his first taste of wheel-to-wheel action with Schumacher during last week's Barcelona test, when the pair lapped close together during race distance simulation work on the final day. Hamilton says that it definitely feels more "special" being there with Schumacher.
"I had really good fun," Hamilton told AUTOSPORT. "I was on my long run, on my last stint, and I caught Michael up. Rather than backing off, I thought, 'Let's have some fun and see if we can get close to him!' It was really, really hard work and good to experience what the new car is like when behind people. So, I was challenging, I was learning new things and thinking I need to get past him really quick.
"I managed to get up in the inside of him on one of the corners, and I think he had fun as well – but we were clearly seconds of difference in time [pace-wise], because he was heavier with fuel and I was lighter. But it was really cool."
He added: "It was a unique and special feeling to see Michael Schumacher ahead of me – and know it was him! It feels different compared to coming up against any other driver, because he is a seven-time World Champion. He is a legend!
"You are a legend if you have got seven World Championships! One or two [titles]? Respect. But seven, it's legendary! You look at it, and think, 'Wow, that's cool.'"
Hamilton has been left upbeat about the progress that McLaren has made over the winter, especially with the new aerodynamic package that was fitted to the car for the final two days of Barcelona.
Speaking about how ready he feels the team is for the start of the season, Hamilton said: "I didn't really know what I wanted to come out with from Barcelona. I did want to know I had a good package and felt comfortable going into the first race, which I have come away.
"I wasn't expecting to be quickest that day – and we didn't even go out and think, 'Boom, boom, we need to do practice and qualifying runs.' We did a couple of runs on different tyres and I just got that time, rather than trying to nail a better time. So, there is definitely more time to come, which is positive. It is nice to come away from it on the right foot."