After a second consecutive front row lockout of 2012, spectators may be watching a McLaren-only duel at Sepang on Sunday.
Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, so downbeat after his Melbourne defeat, said the British press corps are doing their best to cast him as “the villain” to Jenson Button’s “James Bond”. Those reporters would enjoy a first-corner thriller.
“We both want to get into turn one first, though it’s not just about turn one. It’s a very long, tough race,” said Button.
Hamilton was also keen to steer away from the sensationalism, which was powered this week by former McLaren driver David Coulthard’s claim that Button’s Melbourne win had crushed him psychologically.
“I don’t feel that way at all,” the 2008 world champion insisted. “It may have happened for him (Coulthard) back in the day but not for me.”
At the same time, Button had to fend off claims he has been up to “mind games” since Melbourne by suggesting that he could have lapped Albert Park even quicker.
“That was just me saying that I could have gone a tenth quicker in qualifying,” said the Briton. “If Lewis would have heard that he would say ‘Well, you didn’t”.
“It’s definitely not mind games.”
For now at least, it’s a friendly rivalry, with Hamilton smilingly determined not to be beaten to the first corner again on Sunday.
He said he has asked his engineer to do what he can to make his start at Sepang a good one.
Button joked: “I’ve already paid him off.”
And there is another possibility: the silver car leading into turn one might not be a McLaren.
“The Mercedes is renowned, especially Michael (Schumacher), for getting good starts,” said Button, referring to the seven time world champion who starts the race from third.
“It’s going to be a fun turn one I think.”