Hamilton has faith in new McLaren

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's pre-season "disaster" that wrecked his chances of retaining his Formula One title.

After claiming the crown in 2008, Hamilton naturally headed into last season in ebullient mood, only for the smile to be wiped from his face on day one of testing in Barcelona.

In pouring all their resources into ensuring Hamilton became king, McLaren were late developing their new car, which had to take into account the most extensive rule change in F1 for 20 years.

It meant that when Hamilton hit the Circuit de Catalunya for the first time, he and McLaren discovered to their horror they were two to three seconds slower than their rivals.

Through sheer determination and hard work, McLaren managed to claw their way back on top of the podium again.

But at that stage, beyond the halfway point of the season, any hope of back-to-back titles had long since disappeared.

Now, ahead of the opening day of today's first test at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Hamilton's confidence is high the new car will run as good as it looked at Friday's launch.

"I'm not nervous," asserted Hamilton when asked if he felt any apprehension.

"Last year we arrived and we thought it would be fine, but it was a disaster, which set the tone for what was to follow over the next couple of months.

"I know how much work has gone into this car. I know it's going to be a better car than last year's car but whether it's going to be the best car I don't know.

"Right now, I'm probably the most excited I've ever been to get back in the car after this break, just because I've been in touch with the team so much more and I've had so much input into it.

"I know certain things have changed from last year, which makes it a lot nicer for me to drive and to handle.

"So I doubt very much the first test is going to be a disaster like it was last year, but for sure it won't feel as good as it will do at the first race."

Hamilton will have to wait until tomorrow to get his first taste of the MP4-25 as test driver Gary Paffett is behind the wheel today, with current champion Jenson Button running on Wednesday.

A total of seven teams are in action today, most notably Michael Schumacher making his return to F1, definitively ending just over three years in retirement.

The media attention will undoubtedly be on Schumacher, although Ferrari duo Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are also on track.

For Brazilian Massa, his outing marks the end of a long road back since his accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix last July that almost cost him his life.

Renault - who yesterday announced Vitaly Petrov will become the first Russian to race in F1 this year - Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso will also be testing their new cars.