Smiles all around at launch of 'beautiful' McLaren MP4-27

Lewis Hamilton, Martin Whitmarsh and Jenson Button with the McLaren MP4-27

Lewis Hamilton, Martin Whitmarsh and Jenson Button with the McLaren MP4-27

Feb.1 (Reuters) A light-hearted Lewis Hamilton laughed off the recent past and looked forward to a happier season ahead after helping Jenson Button take the wraps off McLaren’s sleek new Formula One car on Wednesday.

Highlighting the re-profiled wing mirrors on the silver and red MP4-27, 2008 world champion Hamilton joked that the rear-view improvements would also be appreciated by Ferrari rival Felipe Massa.

The two drivers clashed repeatedly last year in a controversial and crash-happy season that Hamilton was only too happy to leave behind.

“We’ve changed the wing mirrors, so hopefully we’ll be able to see a little bit better,” said Hamilton, admiring the smooth, flowing lines of the Mercedes-powered machine. “Felipe will be happy with that.”

The new car had none of the ‘ugly’ bumps on the nose predicted to become a feature of this year’s crop after Caterham last week revealed a ‘platypus’ front wing that received an immediate thumbs down from the aesthetes among F1 fans.

“This is a beautiful car. Many of those that you will see will not be,” said Button.

Hamilton agreed that the car looked the business and should be able to do it as well.

“I think it looks fantastic. I think it’s probably the most refined looking car we’ve had for some time now,” said the 27-year-old. “When [a] car looks good, it generally is good.”

Hamilton and 2009 world champion Button, overall runner-up in 2011, won three races each last year but Red Bull won both championships for the second year in a row.

McLaren, without a constructors’ title since 1998, finished distant runners-up after launching their car with great optimism and then struggling to get an elaborate exhaust system to function properly in testing.

They made sweeping changes but still had to play catch-up in the early races while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel chalked up a string of wins and on his way to a second title.

Button said he had no idea where McLaren stood this year but hoped he would have a good impression when the car hits the track in Jerez, southern Spain, next week.

“We’re all positive now and hopefully that will continue in testing,” he said. “We’ve got to come out of the box and be strong. We are excited but I’m sure every team is a little bit apprehensive when it comes to testing.”

While Hamilton took comfort from the car being an evolution of the one that ended 2011 so strongly, the car is substantially revised from last year’s with all major systems updated or re-designed.

The rear bodywork is more tightly-waisted, to improve air flow, and the sidepods re-designed as a result of new exhaust regulations.

“It looks beautiful at the moment but cars really do look beautiful if they win races,” said team boss Martin Whitmarsh, who recognised that last year’s testing had been “abysmal”.

“If it looks good at the outset, then that helps us,” added the Briton.

“We don’t think we are going to have a repeat of last winter.”

This season, which starts in Australia on March 18, will have a new race in Austin, Texas, and an unprecedented six champions on the starting grid now that Kimi Raikkonen has returned.

“It’s great to have so many great champions out there, that’s definitely enough world champions, hopefully there won’t be any more out there,” smiled Hamilton.