Out-going Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton refused to agree with suggestions that the frontrunner to replace him is suffering from a case of the yips on the title run-in, insisting that Jenson Button had already shown that he had what it takes to lead the way.
Prior to taking second place in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last time out, Button had added only eleven points to his tally since taking his sixth and final win of the year to date in Turkey, leading many to claim that he was 'getting tight' as pressure mounted on him, but Hamilton insisted that his fellow Briton's absence from the top step of the podium was as much to do with the field closing up as the season wore on.
"Everyone is pushing, everyone is making steps forward, so the gap that [Brawn] used to have was clearly much greater a while ago," the McLaren man offered, "Everyone's closing the gap. The times between all us drivers, us teams, are getting closer and closer.
"I don't know the answer as to what's going on, but what I can say about Jenson? You can't forget that he won six races. He has dominated for quite a lot of the season, and Brawn have dominated for quite a lot of the season. But it is intense."
For the second time in three races, Button missed the cut for the final phase of qualifying, managing only twelfth place on the grid for the night race in Singapore, but Hamilton again opined that the unpredictable nature of performances up and down the grid probably had a lot to do with the result.
"I didn't see what happened to them today, but I know that they are pushing as hard as they can and, without a doubt, they clearly won the last race, so it's not like that they don't have the pace and they are losing it," he claimed, "It's just one of those racing experiences."
Hamilton, who claimed his third pole position of the season on the streets around Marina Bay, admitted that he was envious of Button's place in the heart of the title fight, but insisted that he was only focused on winning for the second time in 2009 and ending the campaign in the best shape for a renewed attack in 2010.
"I wish I was up there, being able to compete with these guys for the world championship," he conceded, "It's great to be up here [in pole position], but what I would give to be able to take this car back to earlier on this season, to at least have a fair battle with these guys.... But that's all in the past, and we look forward."