Mark Webber has said he hopes to see Lewis Hamilton return to form during the 2012 F1 season after a difficult campaign for the Briton last year.

Hamilton endured a rough year both on and off track, with a series of incidents on track and issues in his private life away from it after he split with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.

Speaking in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Webber admitted that he felt some of the criticism levelled at Hamilton during 2011 had been unfair and backed the Briton to be a challenger again during the year ahead.

"He was involved in more incidents than he would have liked but he's clearly gifted behind the wheel," he said. "It's normal for a sportsman or woman to go through some headwinds in their career - particularly someone like him who had so much success so early, and he's black, and he's got interest, and he's got a girlfriend of profile. This is of interest to a lot of people and it needs managing.

"Let's hope he's strong [this season] but not too strong. As a competitor you hope he can realise his potential but clearly we still want to beat him."

Webber himself will also hope for a stronger performance during the year ahead having taken victory on just one occasion in 2011 - when he took the chequered flag first in the final race of the year.

Indeed, the Australian said he was going into the new season on a high with his aim being to try and kick-start the campaign with a home win in Melbourne later this month.

"It's the best I've felt for a while going into the first race, in terms of preparation and how we're going to tackle that first event," he said. "Along with Monza they are the two ones I would definitely like to win. I've won some other classics, it would be great to win my home race and blow the roof of the place, but you take care of the processes and not get too far ahead of yourself.

"There are a lot of landmines waiting for us so we need to be ready for them."