Lewis Hamilton says his former team McLaren deserves to be fighting for championships next year and revealed that he still associates the Woking-based outfit with ex-boss Ron Dennis.
Hamilton made his debut with McLaren in 2007 after the team and its former owner Dennis invested heavily in his junior career. He went on to win his first title with McLaren in 2008 before leaving for Mercedes at the start of the 2013 season.
McLaren has not won a race since 2012 and has spent the last three years at the back of the grid with uncompetitive Honda engines. Now under new management following Dennis' departure in 2016, the team will use Renault engines next year and is targeting a return to winning ways.
"I have a natural place in my heart for them because I achieved a huge amount with them," Hamilton said. "I really, really hope that next year is a successful year for them and that we are battling with them [at the front].
"McLaren deserve to be at the front and have a fantastic team with incredible history. It's something I'm incredibly proud of, what Ron did with that team, and it doesn't matter who takes over that team, for me it's always Ron's team.
"I hope that with this new power unit they are up there with us and I hope you have an incredible world champion [in Fernando Alonso] up there fighting for us for the championship."
Hamilton said he still monitors McLaren's progress during race weekends and is keen to rekindle his on-track rivalry with former teammate Fernando Alonso.
"I had a great battle with Fernando earlier this year towards the end of the season [in Mexico] and I would love to have more battles with him on a much more level playing field. I think McLaren have had such a difficult time.
"I grew up with McLaren since I was 13 and when I go through a qualifying session I always look to see where Fernando is and where they are -- watching their progress."