Jenson Button feels he is in the perfect position to fight for a second title this season ahead of the Australian Grand Prix season opener.
The 32-year-old Briton, who finished second in the points last year and was the team's strongest challenger for the drivers' title, said that having McLaren's belief behind him was a huge boon as he embarks on his 2012 campaign. He also revealed that the bond he's formed with his McLaren engineers over the past two seasons is now as strong as it was with Brawn when he won the 2009 Formula 1 championship.
"I couldn't be in a better place right now," said Button. "I think you grow in confidence the more the people around you and in the team believe in you, and for me that has been a big thing with McLaren.
"Arriving here, I didn't really know what to expect – but the atmosphere feels very good. It feels like when I won at Brawn – you build the team around you and you build toward a victory.
"I don't just turn up and drive the car, I do many other things as well. I'm working within the team and helping them move forward as a team. It's important for a driver these days."
Button remains unsure where McLaren stands compared to its rivals going into Melbourne, but shares the common view that the field has closed up since 2011. With that in mind, he says that McLaren's strong record of ongoing development will have an impact on the championship's outcome.
"I think that is the main thing for us, we are very good at developing a car through a season and I'm sure other teams are, too," he said. "It is not just going to be Red Bull [we'll be racing against]," he said. "They will be strong – they've had a good car for the last three years – but we are going to have to worry about Mercedes, Lotus and even the Saubers.
"It is like the second-tier teams from last year are going to be fighting at the front and it's going to be a tough [first] few races for everyone. It is a very long season and it's about who can hold it together for the whole year and you would think the bigger teams are able to do that."
He added that starting well was another important target for McLaren – something that it has failed to achieve in recent seasons: "To start with a good car is key to fighting for the championship. Testing has been tough in terms of reading pace so we have just got our heads down and done our own thing. We feel that we have got a lot out of testing and we are in good shape coming here.
"You want to start with a good result and end with a good result, that's the only way to win a championship. If you have a couple of bad races somewhere it's very difficult to fight for it."