Belfast Telegraph

Time for Formula One's big four to get serious

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton acted like two giddy schoolboys on a day when the new term started in Formula One.

You would hardly have guessed the battle for supremacy of the sport begins in earnest today as the McLaren duo whispered and giggled their way through the first FIA media gathering of the season.

The British pair were sat alongside one another on the back row of the Sakhir circuit's press conference room; in front was 'head boy' Michael Schumacher flanked by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Poor old Massa was asked to step aside at the start as the phalanx of photographers clamoured for — and were duly given — the picture of the four world champions stood side by side, arms around each other.

It is hard to imagine such bonhomie will be in evidence come the end of the season.

Once the questions began, in particular those directed to the trio at the front, Hamilton and Button were often viewed pulling away to one side, sharing a joke or a comment, laughing and smiling.

We are led to believe friction will eventually develop between the British pair at some point this season, but at this juncture, they appear the best of friends.

Their antics led to an inquiry as to whether their apparent dynamic was a reflection on their relationship at McLaren after just over two months together working at the team.

True to his sense of humour, and bearing in mind what had unfolded before, Button joked: “It's all for show!

“We're doing exactly what we were told to do by Steve (Cooper, the McLaren PR).”

Add in the fact Button stars in the new Walker's advert, and Hamilton yesterday revealed he would love to be the first black James Bond, and the latter added: “We're focusing on a potential move to acting in the future.”

Button then followed up with the remark: “And no one is asking us any questions.”

At least the sport's last two world champions are starting off on the right foot because today the serious stuff begins.

“I just can't wait,” said an enthusiastic Button.

“It's been a few months since we raced, so I'm looking forward to getting out there and racing. That's what we love.

“Testing is part of the job, but racing is the bit we enjoy, and it's such a competitive season, possibly one of the most exciting we have seen in Formula One.

“Just being a part of that is very special.”

As is the fact he carries the number one on his car, something he has obviously done throughout the four pre-season tests, but only now at the start of his defending campaign does it hit home — although he admits that feeling will not last for long.

“I can only look at that in a positive way, and stepping into the car and seeing the number one on it is a very special feeling,” smiled Button.

“Especially here in Bahrain at the first race when, just before I put on my helmet and look at the car and see the number one, it's going to be an emotional moment.

“But the moment I step into the car and close my visor, last season is out of the window and that's when I focus on this year.”

For his part, Hamilton would love nothing more than to reclaim the crown he won in 2008.

However, just because his team-mate is the guy now in possession of the title, that matters little to Hamilton who is fired up regardless.

“I don't think it really makes a huge difference,” said Hamilton.

“Jenson has been welcomed into the team and has done a great job, has been very productive and enthusiastic, and has really brought a lot of energy, so I can only see it (his arrival) as a positive.

“From my side, after not such a good year last year, but finishing on quite a high, I feel as determined as ever, if not more so.”

Meanwhile, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed yesterday that India will host a grand prix next year, subject to the final approval of the 2011 calendar by the World Council later this year.

If no race is dropped that would result in a further expansion of the calendar to what would be a record 20 races.

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