Hamilton to steer clear of trouble Down Under

Lewis Hamilton is hoping this year's Australian Grand Prix weekend will be a far quieter affair for him personally than has been the case in the recent past.

In 2009, in his first race as world champion following his stunning success just a few months previously and in the most remarkable of circumstances, McLaren and Hamilton were caught in a web of deceit.

After finishing third, Hamilton was ultimately excluded from the classification after lying to stewards in a post-race investigation into an incident involving Jarno Trulli, then with Toyota.

Then last year, just weeks after sacking father Anthony as manager, the 26-year-old was charged on the eve of qualifying by Melbourne police for "hooning" – burning rubber in his hired Mercedes – an offence that earned him a Aus$500 (£280) fine.

Those two incidents have blotted Hamilton's copybook, so it is easy to appreciate his eagerness ahead of Sunday's season-opening race to want to stay out of the headlines other than for the right reasons.

"This year should be a little more dull for you guys [the media] – hopefully," Hamilton said. "Outside of the track I won't be doing any driving. I'll be keeping to myself in the hotel."

Hamilton is concerned that in the wake of what transpired a year ago, he might have become a marked man with the local police. "I think they might just pull me over just for the sake of it being me," he added.

On the flip side, Hamilton feels that in the eyes of the Australian public his stock has increased. "I get really good support. Surprisingly people really like me over there," said Hamilton. "I've always had decent support when I go to Australia. I think they can relate to me a little bit more, that I'm not a robot, saying, 'Ah, you're like one of us. Nice to meet you'. So I'm looking forward to going back and hopefully having a bit more support."

Hamilton will need all the support he can muster to assist him over the next few weeks if McLaren have failed to close the gap to their rivals that was apparent in testing.

Lacking in reliability and short on pace, McLaren's new car was at least a second adrift of Ferrari and reigning champions Red Bull after the last test in Barcelona.