Despite qualifying just 0.009secs slower than Sebastian Vettel ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, Jenson Button fears that the gap between Red Bull and McLaren could be greater when it comes to the race itself.
The Briton set the pace throughout free practice at Suzuka, and appeared a genuine candidate for pole position until Vettel took a slightly quicker route to the timing line, but McLaren's pace suggested that both the Briton and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, third on the grid, could seriously rival Vettel for the victory on Sunday. Button, however, pointed to Friday's long run pace difference between the sport's two leading teams as reason to be pessimistic.
"If you look at our one lap pace in practice, it was very good but, if you look at our long runs, I think we were about 1.5secs slower than these guys," he admitted, "Either they were running a different fuel load than us - yeah, I wish we had 200 kilos in the car - or we are seriously in trouble.
"Hopefully, they were running less fuel than us but, as I said, however much fuel you ran yesterday, the consistency is very difficult with these tyres, especially with the softer of the two and it's going to be a hard race tomorrow. I really haven't got a clue at this point in time on how many pit-stops it's going to be - definitely more than one and probably definitely more than two, so you are working towards three and four pit-stops I think.
"It's going to be interesting to see how that goes. Hopefully our pit crew is strong at the moment. I think they are, they've looked good in the last couple of races, and hopefully we're better on the tyres tomorrow than we were yesterday.
"I really don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Yesterday, people were running lots of different fuel loads when they were running longer runs. I hope they were anyway, and tyres don't seem to last that long, but hopefully it will be a different story tomorrow. "
Asked whether he felt that the Red Bull would also be the superior car in race trim - notably taking 130R with its DRS open - Button again conceded that it could be a close call on performance.
"I didn't really notice that there was a big difference but, yes, it doesn't help us," he noted, "But then we have the DRS, so that's a big advantage and, obviously, us with DRS is more powerful than their top speed, even though they have a higher top speed without DRS.
"If we're close enough and we're quick enough, we will be able to overtake, I think, but it's whether we are or not. I think it's going to be a tough race for all of us with the tyres, but we will do our best and I don't think the top speed will be the biggest issue."