Sebastian Vettel may have clinched a second successive F1 world championship title at the Japanese Grand Prix, but the opening moments of the race refused to be washed away by the tide of celebrations.
The German needed only a single point to ensure that he retained the crown he won at the last gasp in 2010, and was never in danger of achieving that goal after qualifying on pole, but he appeared determined to prevent his only remaining rival, Jenson Button, from hitting the front in search of the race win he needed to keep his hopes alive.
While Button's task was a tough one - he needed to win all five remaining races without Vettel scoring that one point - the Briton had appeared the class of the field through the early phases of the Suzuka weekend and was only denied pole position by 0.009secs as Vettel maintained Red Bull's remarkable 2011 qualifying run. He then appeared to make a marginally better start than the champion-elect, only to find Vettel closing the gap that existed along the right-hand edge of the run to turn one.
"Initially, I wasn't sure where he was - I didn't really see him," the German claimed, "I thought he was either on the right or he was far away on the left. I saw Lewis [Hamilton] and I thought I had a good start and kept moving to the right, looking for him. By the time I saw him, I realised that maybe I was a little bit too far to the right and then he was backing off. Obviously, [there was] no intention to put him in any danger."
Vettel briefly turned the conversation towards second-placed Fernando Alonso, comparing the Suzuka incident to his battle with the Spaniard at Monza by asking 'I think we can run with two wheels on the grass, can't we Fernando?', before getting a little tetchy at Button's suggestion that perhaps he had got his opponents mixed up in the heat of the moment at the start.
"No, no, I said we can race with two wheels on the grass, and then I said Fernando," Vettel snapped back, "Obviously, as I said, I didn't want to put him in danger, but I think we have to race each other hard."
Button naturally had a different view of whether the defence was dangerous or not, although he subsequently accepted Vettel's claims that he was unsighted.
"I am not going to lie - from my point of view, I felt that he kept coming when I wasn't alongside him but I had half my car up the inside," the Briton explained, "I thought he was coming across more than I expected and didn't give me any room. I was on the grass, but I am sure when I watch it back on TV, or maybe when I watch it back on TV, I will have a different opinion.
"But, at that moment in time, yes, I felt that it was a little bit more than was needed. But it was obviously fair, as the stewards said it was fair, so that's it. Sometimes, when you get a good start and the guy in front doesn't get such a good start these sort of things happen. If we all get off the line at the same speed, it is not normally an issue."