The world will get its first chance to see the car that Lewis Hamilton will use to defend his Formula One world championship title in the middle of next month, after McLaren confirmed a January launch date for the MP4/24.

Currently being built and designed to the latest set of regulation changes at the team's hi-tech base in Woking, the car will be unveiled on Friday 16 January but, in line with those rivals to have already revealed their launch plans, the 'ceremony' will take place at home, rather than at a test session or some glitzy location. Two years ago, McLaren celebrated the capture of Fernando Alonso with a parade of cars through the streets of Valencia before unveiling its 2007 model.

Hamilton has already revealed that he is looking forward to getting back on track after the last few weeks of 2008 are spent either attempting to relax and recharge or on engagements to mark his title triumph. However, the Briton admitted that he would not be in action until the New Year, with a little running planned before the MP4/24 hits the track at the end of January.

Before then, the Briton, team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and test drivers Gary Paffett and Pedro de la Rosa will head for a special training camp in the wilds of Finland.

BMW Sauber and Toyota are the only other teams to have confirmed launch dates, with the former due to reveal in Valencia on 20 January and Toyota - traditionally one of the first to take the wraps off a new car - opting for a low-key internet unveiling the day before McLaren.

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