Lewis Hamilton has sent out an ominous warning to any of his Formula 1 rivals hoping to steal away his crown this year, by claiming that his preparations are similar to those he had ahead of his debut season in the top flight back in 2007 - one in which most believe he drove even better than last year when he lifted the laurels.

The raft of wide-ranging technical and aerodynamic changes that have been brought into force for 2009 - allied to the stringent new in-season testing ban - have made testing and the build-up to the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of March arguably more vital than ever before.

Those that get it right Down Under are likely to have an advantage for the remainder of the campaign, whilst those that find they have got it wrong could well find themselves struggling for the duration. In company with his McLaren-Mercedes team, Hamilton is determined to get it right.

"I think what is important is that because we have a completely new car, a completely new package, I have come back into the factory," the 24-year-old is quoted as having said by the Welwyn and Hatfield Times.

"Although I have been watching closely the development of the car, I am sitting down more with the engineers. It is a bit like the preparation I had for 2007.

"I am understanding the differences in the suspension, KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) and all the safety aspects."

McLaren's next on-track outing will come during the F1 group test at Jerez in southern Spain, beginning next week on 10 February. Despite all the upheaval in the regulations, Hamilton is confident that the Woking-based outfit will not be caught napping when the lights go out in Melbourne in just under two months' time.

"I have like only seven days in the car," the nine-time grand prix-winner explained, "so we are going to make sure that we really extract the most from those days.

"Hopefully we won't have any reliability problems. We have been very, very fortunate in the past, so I am confident the team have done a great job."

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