If you took the four world championship contenders at face value here yesterday, you'd think none of them was much bothered about winning the title on Sunday afternoon. Each of them was at pains to play down their emotions, in a unique game of one-upmanship. Of course there have been tight title fights that have gone down to the wire, but never in Formula One history have four potential winners lined up to do battle in the final race.
Lewis Hamilton was the coolest of them, perhaps because he has the slimmest chance of success with a 24-point deficit to leader Fernando Alonso, and only 25 up for grabs.
"For me, I have nothing to lose," he said. "The guys in front of me have everything to lose, so for me I am going to be flat-out as always. They have got generally faster cars than me but that doesn't mean that we cannot fight for a win. Obviously, I have to win this race. That's what we plan to do."
Sebastian Vettel thinks he is in a similar situation. "It's pretty easy. Some 40 years ago, a Formula One driver said that in these races the only tactic is to go flat out. The approach hasn't changed for the last couple of races and, for myself at least, it will not change here. It is a long weekend and we try to do our best and ideally try to put us in a similar situation as in Korea and the last race, and then we see."
The odds favour Alonso, and Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber, who earlier in the week registered a complete lack of comprehension when his team owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, suggested that he would rather see Alonso win than impose team orders on either of his drivers. Webber, nevertheless, was commendably nonchalant, and avoided stirring things up.
"We'll see how the weekend shapes up but Fernando is in the best position. Then it goes a little bit down after that. So, looking forward to it. It should be good," he said. "I think we will still see how Friday goes, how Saturday goes as to how we approach the race on Sunday. I think it will depend on how the weekend is going. We will change the tactics depending on how competitive we are or which positions we are in."
If the race mirrors the Brazilian Grand Prix – where Vettel won from Webber and Alonso – the big question is whether Vettel will voluntarily move over in the closing stages to let his team-mate win both race and title. Doing so would make him a worldwide hero of some sporting magnitude and it is impossible to believe that the thought has not occurred to him. But he is only likely to do so if the race is set in stone, and yesterday he delighted in teasing his audience about his likely behaviour in such a scenario.
"There are lots of things happening, and more important things happening before we enter this possible stage, whatever the scenario," he said, grinning. "So I think we have to focus first of all to get the car ready tomorrow, prepare it, have a solid qualifying.
"Last year was a very tricky session here I remember, so there are lots of things to do, things that we should spend our energy on, more important than what happens on Sunday. To answer the question: if the situation occurs, then I think we know that we're driving for the team, we have had some occasions this year where we got close and it didn't look too good, so I think the main target is not to repeat that. And the rest we will see."Reuse content