Lewis Hamilton says he is 'ready for battle' going into the opening round of the new F1 season at Albert Park next weekend.

The Briton has endured a difficult pre-season with McLaren's new MP4-26, with a series of issues limiting time on track following the launch of the car prior to the second test of the year at Jerez.

While the 2008 champion admits that pre-season has been more difficult than Mercedes-powered team anticipated, Hamilton goes into the Australian GP hopeful that McLaren will have resolved some of the issues it has faced and said he was excited about the prospect of getting the season underway.

"We can't hide the fact that testing has been tougher than we expected: our test mileage hasn't been as high as that of our rivals, nor have we had the outright pace of the fastest cars," he said. "Still, I have a good feeling with MP4-26: I like driving our car, I think it will look after its tyres quite well and I understand that we'll be making further performance steps ahead of this opening race.

"We know we go to Melbourne ready for battle: some teams are extremely well prepared - both from a pace and reliability point of view - but that can sometimes count for little in the unpredictable and somewhat chaotic opening races where it's equally vital just to take points home.

"It's felt like a very long winter, but I started the new season feeling fitter and more positive than ever and I've maintained that enthusiasm and momentum despite a somewhat difficult few weeks of tests.

"I strongly believe that, while our preparations haven't gone as smoothly as we'd have liked, we'll be arriving in Melbourne with everything finally meshing together - and that makes me really excited."



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