Lewis Hamilton believes that he is as prepared for the 2011 F1 campaign as he was a fresh-faced rookie coming into the top flight four years ago.
With the 2009 campaign - his world title defence - having been tough mentally, and last season ending in frustration after a championship bid petered out into fourth place overall, the Briton took himself away from it all over the winter in order to come back refreshed and focused. Having helped McLaren to a total of five race wins three 1-2s and second overall in the constructors' championship, Hamilton is keen to hit the ground running in 2011.
“I head into 2011 in a relaxed, but determined, frame of mind," he revealed during Friday's unveiling of the latest McLaren race car, "I've spared nothing during my winter fitness preparations and, in many ways, I feel as fit, focused and refreshed as I did ahead of my first season in F1 in 2007."
That first season, of course, very nearly saw Hamilton take the world title as a rookie, and he has already expressed his optimism about repeating his 2008 success having seen the new MP4-26 in the flesh.
"I think people saw a unique way of revealing our 2010 car, something that's never been done before, and I hope the MP4-26 proves just as innovative once we take to the track next week," he noted, having paid special attention to some of the unique design features on the chrome-and-red machine, “Having spent the past few weeks talking with our designers and engineers, I feel extremely happy that we've created a car that will once again allow us to fight at the front."
Again paired with fellow Briton Jenson Button, Hamilton is hopeful that McLaren will be able to challenge 2010 rivals Red Bull and Ferrari, both of whom took turns at the top of the testing times with their new cars in Valencia earlier this week, while McLaren ran the older MP4-25.
“This will be my fifth season in F1 - I'm an experienced driver now, and I've won the world championship, scored lots of pole positions and taken many race wins," he commented, "My aim for this year is to ensure that everything comes together in the best possible way and that, like last year, I'm able to fight for the title right down to the final race.
“Of course, Jenson and I will be racing alongside three fellow world champions in 2011, and that's a testament to the strength of F1 right now. It's incredibly hard to say who'll be up at the front, but I'm an absolute racer and I'm looking forward to some fantastic, close racing and another thrilling conclusion to the season – hopefully with a McLaren driver on top!”