The McLaren team believes that Lewis Hamilton will back firing on all cylinders when the 2012 F1 season finally gets underway, having taken a winter away from the sport to get over the malaise that affected his 2011 campaign.

The Briton is currently enjoying a ski trip to the Rocky Mountains as part of a US-based sojourn, and McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale reckons that the break is doing him good. Although he ended the 2011 season strongly, with pole position in Korea and victory in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton suffered an uncharacteristic slump mid-season as he allowed personal problems to deflect his attention away from racing.

"I'm speaking to him most weeks, [and] he's getting himself together," Neale told the BBC, "He's winter training really hard and he's in the right place, doing the things he needs to be doing."

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Despite no track action being possible until early February, when pre-season testing kicks off in Jerez, Neale admits that Hamilton is doing what he needs to do to be in the best shape - physically and mentally - to return and challenge for the title. However, with the new McLaren due to be unveiled on 1 February, six days before testing gets underway, the MD acknowledges that that will be the first real test of Hamilton's rehabilitation.

"What he needs to do is get himself in the car," Neale insisted, "He's only got something to prove to himself. He's his own biggest critic. He puts extremely high demands on himself - we at the team are here to support him. It's a tough business, you've got to get the job done."

Neale admitted that McLaren also had a little healing of its own to do, but was attempting to do just that both on track and off.

"One of the things we measure is our 'did-not-score' rate," he revealed, "If we had a good car that was capable of scoring good points in that race and we didn't, we go back and ask ourselves why. There have been a number of operational issues we've needed to get fixed and some of the changes we're making in our line-up and some of the processes - and bringing people like Sam Michael on board - are aimed at tackling some of those issues."

While he naturally hoped that his team would be able to challenge form victories from the off, something that took a little longer than expected in 2011, Neale admitted that he expected both Ferrari and Red Bull to provide stiff opposition.

"Who knows who will come out with what?" he reasoned, "Ferrari have obviously got a lot to prove this year [but], from the glimpse we got of how their car was at Silverstone without the blown diffuser, they were quick, so they have some capability there. Red Bull have been good for the last two years [and] they sorted out their reliability last year. The whole car hangs together well for Red Bull and, with an evolutionary set of rules, they would be disappointed if they weren't among the frontrunners."

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..... on the spot by a former journey man driver who isnt even among the fastest 5 drivers in F1.

New season, new chance for the hamster but its about time to live up to the hype or let some other fast kid show what the McLaren really can do. Or does anybody believe in points Button got the maximum out of it when in fact he was slower in qualifying most of the time.

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Lewis is lucky that Helmut Marko is not running McLaren, you know "After 5 years we had to come to the conclusion that there is no posibility of growth ...., a very good grand prix driver but not exceptional ..... ladida ladida ". Contrary to Red Bulls young driver program with Scott Speed, Liuzzi, Hartley, Vettel, Buemi, Ricciardo, Vergne and so on Hamilton was the only driver McLaren ever groomed and who knows if they had invested in 3 to 5 young drivers instead of just young Lewis if he would be the one with the McLaren seat in the end. Maybe he is no better than Scott Speed, just had the best equipment in F3 and GP2 and number one status all the time ? We will never know. OK deep down we know thats the truth but for the show we have to pretend otherwise. What we absolutely know is as soon as McLaren got another Brit in the other McLaren and gave him equal status and a little more time to settle in the team (Fernando and Heiki did receive neither) Hammi was found out on the spot by

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