Jerez: Lewis Hamilton identified Mika Hakkinen's former manager Didier Coton on Thursday as a key man in possibly creating a 'happy bubble' around him at race weekends this season.
McLaren's 2008 Formula One champion had a controversial and disappointing season last year, despite winning three races, and has at times appeared in need of guidance and support since stepping away from his father Anthony.
The Briton said last year he hoped to create his own supportive 'happy bubble' similar to that enjoyed by teammate and 2009 champion Jenson Button, who has his father, manager, girlfriend and close group around him at Grands Prix.
"Me and (manager) Simon (Fuller) wanted to strengthen the team a little bit and we wanted someone who would have potentially a bit more racing experience," he told reporters after testing the new McLaren for the first time at Jerez in southern Spain.
"Didier has been a good friend of mine for many years and he has great experience with my team and also just in the F1 paddock. I think it will be quite strong to have him there at the Grands Prix, just there when I need him. That's generally what he will be there for," added Hamilton, a day after Coton's appointment was announced.
Finland's Hakkinen won his two titles with McLaren in 1998 and 1999 and Belgian Coton, who has a Monaco-based management stable of his own, is an old hand in the paddock.
Asked whether he felt he now had the desired bubble around him, Hamilton shied away from the word.
"I'm not going to use the phrase, but it's definitely a step towards that direction. And I think I'm closer to having that already," he said.
The new car also kept his spirits high, particularly after the difficult start to last year when McLaren began on the back foot and had to play catch up with a car that was embarrassingly unreliable and off the pace in testing.
The 27-year-old did 80 laps and completed 354km in a session where lap times were largely immaterial but reliability and consistency was a key goal.
"I wasn't really sure where we'd be today, but when I put new tyres on I was able to extract the grip quite easily, and it definitely felt as though it's something we can work with," he declared. "I wouldn't say the car is more predictable than last year, but it generally feels like an evolution of last year's car in many ways."
"There are some things which have been lost, like the downforce on the rear, it's not as good through the high-speed corners as it was last year, but I'm sure we'll get that back," added Hamilton. "Last year we only did 10 or 15 laps and then we had some failures, but today I did 80 laps, so it's a big improvement on last year, and mileage is everything."