LEWIS Hamilton and Formula 1 team-mate Jenson Button have unveiled the new McLaren MP4-27 car they will drive during the 2012 season.

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The launch of the MP4-27 took place today (Wednesday) at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.

This morning’s technical presentation of the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes challenger by Hertfordshire-born Hamilton, 27, and fellow former F1 world champion Button showcased a natural evolution of last year’s six-race-winning car.

While the MP4-27 closely resembles last year’s model, the 2012 chassis has been substantially revised from the ground-up, with all major systems updated or re-designed for the new season.

The most evident visual differences include more tightly waisted rear bodywork, developed to improve flow to the rear of the car, and a revised cooling system, which re-directs the gearbox oil-cooler.

Last year’s U-shaped sidepods have also been re-designed – a legacy of the FIA’s new exhaust regulations that redefine the shape of the rear bodywork.

Hamilton is looking forward to driving the MP4-27 – and challenging Red Bull’s supremacy on the track.

“I’ve been keenly following the development of MP4-27 over the winter and I’ve been really encouraged by the results and the data that the engineers have been showing me,” said Lewis, whose family live in Tewin.

“I think we already had a very strong base to build upon: Jenson and I won six races with MP4-26 last year and I think we’ve been able to retain all the strengths and the reliability of that design while also incorporating lots of improvements and new ideas into the new car.

“Of course, the biggest changes for 2012 are the modifications to the exhaust regulations – that will reduce the downforce and grip that we had last year, but it just puts the emphasis on the designers to try and claw some of that back in other areas.

“I get the feeling the MP4-27 is going to feel very new and exciting when we get to drive it for the first time.”

After finishing second in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 2011, McLaren’s aim for the new season is to fight for both world titles from the very start of this year’s campaign.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “The 2012 season will be an important one for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: having finished second in the constructors’ championship for the past two seasons, we’re determined to mount a sustained, hard challenge for both world titles.

“We have a fantastically committed team of individuals, and MP4-27 is the fruit of their labours – it’s a beautiful car, and one we feel is the perfect platform from which to launch our assault on the world championship.

“While there are clear visual changes to this year’s car, there’s greater change beneath the skin, with lots of fresh thinking applied to every major system. The car is pleasingly complete.”

Whitmarsh added: “For 2012, we are well aware that Red Bull remains a very powerful and capable operation, and that both Ferrari and Mercedes AMG are ramping up their operational capacity.

“We have no room to be complacent – what you see today only scratches the surface of what we’re planning to deliver to the track both from an engineering and operational point of view throughout 2012.

“I’m pleased and confident that we’ve left no stone unturned in our quest for performance.

“Now, our focus invariably turns to the track as we evaluate MP4-27 ahead of the start of the 2012 season in Melbourne on March 18. These will be a fascinating three weeks.”

Following a one-day shakedown, Button will begin track testing of the MP4-27 at Spain’s Circuito de Jerez on Tuesday, February 7.

Hamilton will drive the new car on February 9 and 10.

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