By Alan Baldwin
MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who won his first title with McLaren in 2008, says he is shocked at how far the sport's second most successful team have fallen since he left for Mercedes.
Woking-based McLaren have not won a race since 2012 while Hamilton's title, making him at the time the youngest champion in the sport, remains their most recent.
"It doesn't look like a McLaren," Hamilton said at the Italian Grand Prix when asked whether he did a double-take when, as has happened frequently this season, he lapped Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
"It feels very weird when you look at the board and you think of this historic team, which is fighting with Marussia. And Marussia is relatively close on maybe a third of the budget or whatever. Maybe an eighth.
"It just doesn't make sense. I still can't believe today that the team has got to that point," he told British reporters.
McLaren started a new partnership with Honda this season but the Japanese V6 turbo hybrid power unit has had a troubled debut.
McLaren are ninth of 10 teams and have scored just 17 points so far.
Hamilton, winner of six grands prix this year and on pole 10 times in 11 rounds, scored more points in the first race alone than McLaren have all year.
His current 2015 tally of 227 points is more than McLaren scored with both drivers in 2014.
Along the way they have picked up record penalties -- 105 places alone in Belgium on a grid with only 20 cars -- and started on the back row.
Hamilton, whose early career was funded by McLaren and then-partners Mercedes, said the positive news was that things could only get better.
"There is only one way for them, which is a good thing," he said. "It can only better. I'm sure they are working as hard as they can."
Hamilton arrived in Monza sporting a new look of his own, with his hair dyed almost as blond as his team mate Nico Rosberg's natural color.
Such a radical change would have been unthinkable in his time at McLaren.
"I did it just because I can," he said. "I am very much in an experimental phase in my life, experimenting with lots of things. The hair color is short term. When I first saw it...it kind of frightened me a little bit."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)