Hamilton's three wins last year were interspersed with a series of errors and penalties as he admitted personal problems affected him.
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said: "I'm speaking to him most weeks. He's getting himself together.
"He's winter training really hard and he's in the right place doing the things he needs to be doing."
Hamilton is believed to be in the United States training in the Rocky Mountains, but will be back in the UK at the end of the month in time for the launch of the new McLaren on 1 February.
Hamilton said at the end of 2011 that he would spend the winter analysing the difficulties he had had last season and ensuring he was mentally back to full strength for the new season.
Neale said: "What he needs to do is get himself in the car. He's only got something to prove to himself. He's his own biggest critic.
"He puts extremely high demands on himself, we at the team are here to support him. It's a tough business, you've got to get the job done."
One of the motivating factors behind Hamilton's difficult 2011 was his disappointment that McLaren had not produced a car that could challenge Red Bull on a consistent basis.
Neale acknowledged that McLaren needed to up their game in 2012 - not just in terms of performance, but on an operational level as well after strong finishes in several races slipped through their fingers because of errors.
"One of the things we measure is our did-not-score rate," he said. "If we had a good car that was capable of scoring good points in that race and we didn't, we go back and ask ourselves why.
"There have been a number of operational issues we've needed to get fixed and some of the changes we're making in our line-up and some of the processes - and bringing people like (former Williams technical director) Sam Michael on board (as sporting director) - are aimed at tackling some of those issues."
Neale said he expected world champions Red Bull to remain strong in 2012, and that he was wary of a revival from Ferrari, who struggled last year partly because they were unable to maximise the year's must-have technology, exhaust-blown diffusers.
This is when the teams channel the exhausts along the rear floor of the car and blow gases through them even when the driver is off the throttle. The technology significantly increases downforce, but has been banned for 2012.
Ferrari's only win in 2011 was at the British Grand Prix, where the technology was severely restricted for one race.
"Red Bull have been good for the last two years," Neale said.
"They sorted out their reliability last year and it's just speculation at this moment (who will have the quickest car).
"Who knows who will come out with what?
"Ferrari have obviously got a lot to prove this year.
"From the glimpse we got of how their car was at Silverstone without the blown diffuser they were quick, so they have some capability there.
"But the whole car hangs together well for Red Bull and, with an evolutionary set of rules, they would be disappointed if they weren't among the front runners."
(details from the bbc)
McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe is unconcerned about next season’s ban on exhaust-blown diffusers and the possibility that some teams may find ways to continue to exploit exhaust gases in 2012.
While peers at other teams have expressed concerns about possible loopholes in the revised regulations, Lowe is unfazed and is instead relishing the challenge of doing all he can - within the new limitations - to make next year’s McLaren MP4-27 as quick as possible.
“I’m not in fear over it,” he explained during a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-in on Wednesday. “I don’t quite understand when technical directors say they fear stuff like that. What is their fear of? The clue’s in the name - Formula One. It’s a formula - a set of constraints - that we define in the regulations. And once they’re set we’ll go and work as hard as we can to do as much as we can to make the car quick within those limitations.”
Exhaust-blown diffusers, where exhaust gases are channeled towards the car’s rear diffuser to boost downforce, have garnered a lot of attention this season, particularly the use of engine maps that allow the exhaust blowing to continue even when the driver is off the throttle.
Disagreements between the teams on the matter reached a head at July’s British Grand Prix where - after much wrangling - it was eventually decided to drop proposed mid-season revisions to the regulations in favour of a more substantial rule change in 2012. As a result, there will be strict constraints on exhaust positioning next year, which will result in the pipes exiting the bodywork much higher up and no longer in the vicinity of the diffuser.
Although this change to ‘periscope’-style exhausts is expected to minimize the aerodynamic benefit of gas flow over bodywork, Lowe believes anyone who thinks designers will now ignore the downforce-boosting potential of exhausts is naive.
“So we had a bit of a crisis in Silverstone this year with the exhaust blowing situation and reached some agreement in terms of intent next year,” he explained. “The teams have since worked on a range of limits to reduce the amount at which exhausts can be used to create downforce, but it’s never been expected that it would eliminate the effect of exhausts on downforce.
“That would be unrealistic. No regulation we’ve ever written has eliminated an in-car effect. There will be a finite effect. The simple point is that pointing an exhaust out the back will give you a large degree of thrust. That is an aerodynamic fact, but we all know that we can get a lot more than that. And the teams went into that with eyes wide open.
“So I do find it a bit odd when people claim that they fear that people will generate performance from exhausts. Well of course they will. That’s what we have to do. It’s just that some very extreme limits have been put in place to reduce that drastically from where it was.”
News also broke recently that the FIA is to impose even more limitations on the aerodynamic exploitation of exhaust gases in 2012, by further limiting off-throttle blowing through stricter engine mapping rules. Again Lowe was unfazed by the late change.
“We did have a recent clarification from the FIA about how the engine should be run. That did come out of the blue - it wasn’t pre-declared by the FIA. But again that represents a set of limits that we will work to.”
As Jenson Button continued to dominate practice at Suzuka on Saturday morning, taking his McLaren round a half second faster than team mate Lewis Hamilton, the question was whether Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull were sandbagging as the world champion was eight-tenths away from the pace on a circuit that has hitherto suited them.
The session was stopped early on after Bruno Senna had spun his Renault on the exit to the Spoon Curve and crashed hard enough into the tyre wall on the inside to remove the left front wheel. Only the Brazilian’s pride was hurt.
Once things resumed, Button took charge, was overtaken by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, and then stamped his authority once and for all with a lap of 1m 31.255s.
For a while Michael Schumacher jumped to second for Mercedes, before Hamilton staged a late improvement to 1m 31.762s, 0.507s off Button. The silver cars from Woking were the only ones below 1m 32s.
Vettel improved late to 1m 32.122s for third, and the question remains what their respective fuel loads were. We will find out soon enough in qualifying.
Fernando Alonso also improved late, to 1m 32.279s for fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Mark Webber on 1m 32.401s and Felipe Massa on 1m 32.429s. Schumacher dropped back to seventh on 1m 32.725s, with Rosberg eighth on 1m 32.878s.
Vitaly Petrov continued to show well for Renault with 1m 33.058s for ninth, with Adrian Sutil completing the top 10 with 1m 33.424s for Force India. In the German’s wake came the Toro Rossos of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, with 1m 33.469s and 1m 33.545s respectively, then the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, on 1m 33.818s and 1m 33.836s. Paul di Resta rounded out the runners below 1m 34s with 1m 33.990s in the second Force India.
Pastor Maldonado had the faster Williams with 1m 34.321s for 16th, with Senna left 17th on 1m 35.389s prior to his shunt. Rubens Barrichello was 18th on 1m 35.651s, then Jarno Trulli headed Lotus team mate Heikki Kovalainen in their usual 19th and 20th places, with 1m 36.327s and 1m 36.912s apiece.
The Virgins got back ahead of HRT after Daniel Ricciardo had had a spell in 21st, Jerome d’Ambrosio lapping in 1m 37.938s to Timo Glock’s 1m 38.011s. Ricciardo remained close, however, with 1m 38.355s. Tonio Liuzzi’s weekend of disaster continued, however, as his HRT stopped after Spoon with hydraulic problems after he had lapped in 1m 41.097s shortly after Senna’s incident.
Sam Michael will join McLaren as sporting director from 2012 onwards, it was announced on Tuesday. Michael resigned from his current post as Williams’ technical director in May and his last race with the British team will be the forthcoming Singapore event later this month.
“I’m extremely excited to be joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” said Michael. “Being a racer my whole life, I know that McLaren is one of the all-time greats of Formula One. I already know and respect many of the team’s senior technical management figures, and becoming a member of that excellent working unit was one of the prime attractions of this new position.
“Equally, for some time I’ve closely observed and greatly admired both Lewis and Jenson as grade-one drivers, and therefore regard it as an enormous privilege to be able to work with both of them. I’ve spent 11 seasons with Williams, have many fond memories, and truly wish them all the best.
“In the near future, however, I will become 100 per cent focused on McLaren, and will be aiming to ensure that the team’s famous rocket-red victory T-shirts will be seen many times over the coming years.”
Michael started his Grand Prix career with Team Lotus in 1993 and joined Jordan Grand Prix in 1995, where he established the team’s R&D group before progressing into a senior race engineering role. In 2001 he joined Williams as chief operations engineer, becoming the team’s technical director in 2004.
“Speaking on behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I’m very pleased to welcome Sam as an important senior addition to our race team,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “He’ll bring a very valuable blend of experience and expertise to our pit wall, and will also enrich the technical management we provide for our drivers.
“I’m certain he’ll work extremely well with our senior technical management team, which I firmly believe will now become the strongest in all of Formula One.”
Frank Williams, founder and team principal of Williams, added: "I am delighted that Sam has found a new role that will enable him to continue to apply his energy, passion and experience to Formula One. On behalf of everyone at Williams I wish him a successful move to his new team.
"I would also like to thank Sam for his help in enabling a swift and smooth transition to our new technical leadership. Mike Coughlan and Jason Somerville are settling in very well and the restructuring will be complete when Mark Gillan joins us as chief operations engineer on 19 September."
As McLaren’s sporting director, Michael will join the senior management team in addition to taking specific responsibility for the development and management of the team’s trackside operations. It is hoped his vast experience and profound understanding of race operations will enhance the team’s on-track capability.
In Italy McLaren are using the same rear wing they introduced in Spa. It is a touch more angled than those found on other cars, but seems to be advantageous in terms of grip into and out of corners and in braking areas, which in turn helps to conserve tyres.