Lewis Hamilton says he will start the Formula 1 season feeling better prepared than at any other time in his career, but will keep things in perspective if he does not win in Melbourne.
McLaren looks set to be Red Bull's main title rival based on winter testing, and with his team having enjoyed a much smoother build-up than 12 months ago, Hamilton said he heads for Melbourne in an optimistic mood.
"I actually feel more relaxed and ready for the new season than I think I've ever done," he said. "Everything has gone smoothly with the car – which is more than we can say for last year! It just seems to be a responsive and reliable package. My final day in the car – with the aero package we plan to run next weekend – also felt good; the car was a useful step forward. Of course, we haven't tested it in competition yet, but there's plenty to feel optimistic about.
"It's a bit weird to have driven the car for a whole month and still not done a really fast lap – I guess we'll really find the limit next Saturday.
"Obviously, this is always the time of year when you're feeling positive, but we've got plenty to look forward to. I'm going to get off the plane in Australia with a big smile on my face."
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh believes both Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button are beginning the year in the best possible form.
"We've had an extremely productive winter – I've never seen Jenson and Lewis looking so healthy, committed and prepared for a new season," he said. "There's a real hunger within the whole organization – I've witnessed it in conversation with our heads of department, our engineers and our mechanics: We want to win more than ever and we've left no stone unturned in our quest for performance."
But Hamilton added that while he goes to Australia feeling upbeat, he is more focused on the championship campaign than a round one win, describing his aim for Melbourne as being "to score some useful points and use the race to kick-start our challenge for the World Championship."
He added: "That might sound like we're aiming low – we're not – but, at this time of year, it's good to remember that it's going to be a very long season. There's no point putting all your eggs in one basket – I'd love to win in Melbourne, sure, but there are 19 races afterward, so it'll be important to get some points on the board.
"As long as I can leave Australia feeling confident that we have a car that's able to fight for the title, then I'll feel happy. It's as simple as that."