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F1 NEWS 

Lewis Hamilton confident McLaren in very good shape for start of 2012 Formula 1 season

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Catalunya testing 2012Lewis Hamilton says McLaren has nothing to fear from rivals' upgrades as top teams prepare to introduce their final pre-season developments at Barcelona this weekend.

Both McLaren and Red Bull are tipped to bring substantial updates to the last two days of 2012 Formula 1 winter testing, but Hamilton reckons his team will be in good shape whatever the opposition does.

"I think the car's strong - stronger than it was last year at this point," he said.

"With the fuel loads that we've been running, I think we are relatively strong compared to the others, but I'm not necessarily saying we're the fastest. We'll find out when we get to Melbourne.

"But I definitely feel we have a competitive car and we'll be fighting for a podium finish, for sure."

The Briton believes McLaren has not shown its hand yet.

"I think people have been running a lot less fuel than I have been running," said Hamilton. "I think we've just been focusing on our programme. With the fuel load that we've been running, I think we seem competitive when you do the calculations.

"But that doesn't really matter to us at the moment. It's how the car feels and what we can improve on."

Asked if McLaren was likely to do a low-fuel run this weekend, Hamilton replied: "We probably won't do that until Melbourne."

He also underlined how much stronger McLaren's position was compared to 12 months ago, when a radical exhaust system left it struggling in testing and forced a last-gasp redesign, despite which the team still took a podium in Australia.

"If you look at last year, we arrived in Melbourne and finished second in that race, and we had less than half the mileage anyone else had from testing," said Hamilton.

"We're now up there with them and we've definitely done a similar amount of mileage to everyone else, and put good enough mileage on the car to understand where the car wants to be."

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