It is not very often that an F1 team boss will extol the virtues of a rival team's driver heading into a world championship campaign, but that is just what Ross Brawn has done approaching 2010, warning Jenson Button's detractors that the defending world champion has 'hidden steel' beneath his occasionally 'fluffy exterior'.

Observers are giving Button little hope of getting the better of team-mate, compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes this year, opining that the 30-year-old will not only be outpaced by the present incumbent - a driver whose scintillating raw speed during his 'rookie' campaign in the top flight was enough to send even Fernando Alonso scurrying for the exit door in 2007 - but also mentally out-psyched by a man who has been supported by the Woking-based outfit since the age of eleven.

However, Brawn - who helped to expertly guide the Frome-born ace to his breakthrough drivers' crown at the highest level in 2009 - warns that only a fool would write Button off so easily, and that the seven-time grand prix-winner's 'playboy' reputation of years gone-by is now no more than a distant memory.

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"Jenson sometimes puts on this fluffy exterior - but he has hidden steel," the Mercedes Grand Prix team principal is quoted as having said by the Daily Mirror. "He showed that last year. He was magnificent at the start of the season, but when things started to turn in the second half he showed what he is made of."

One competitor that both Button and Hamilton will need to beat if one of them is to claim the world championship trophy in 2010 is returning F1 legend Michael Schumacher, who has re-ignited his ultra-successful partnership with Brawn and is bidding to defy conventional wisdom by lifting the laurels for an incredible eighth time at the comparatively grand old age of 41 and following three years away from the cockpit.

Fellow former world champion Nigel Mansell, though, has contended that such a feat might be beyond the 91-time grand prix-winner during his first campaign back on the grid since 'retirement' [see separate story - click here] - and Brawn tends to concur.

"That is probably right," the Englishman reckoned. "We want to win a few races, but you never go into a season saying, 'this one is ours'. You aim to win races, and if you can do that then everything else follows."