Despite being the current world champion, there seem to be few in the F1 racing fraternity prepared to back Jenson Button over his new teammate at McLaren this season.
Two British motorsport legends have tipped Lewis Hamilton to hold a competitive edge over his countryman when the first race begins at Bahrain next Sunday.
"I give Lewis the edge for the first six races because he knows the team and the people and the car," former champion Nigel Mansell told Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek.Three time world champion Jackie Stewart echoed this sentiment. "For me Lewis definitely has the advantage. Partly because he knows the team and the culture, partly because he has delivered results in the past and McLaren know they can trust him," said Stewart.
"I still believe that whatever anybody says about number ones and number twos, Lewis will be the natural number one."
With fluctuating conditions making pre-season testing difficult to evaluate, true assessments of pace will have to wait until qualifying at Bahrain - but Mansell believed that Button would eventually challenge once he was comfortable with the new car.
"Jenson will settle down and hopefully prove what a great world champion he is and compete very strongly." Stewart conceded that one element which may play into Button's hands is a new rule which bans refuelling in the 2010 season.
"There is no doubt the new fuel regulations play into the hands of smooth drivers, and I think Jenson's very good at that. You never see too much steering angle. He doesn't bully a car at all."
Last year Stewart insisted that Button was walking into the lion's den by joining Hamilton at McLaren, but the world champion's former boss claimed that his resolve had been severely underestimated.
"Jenson has a depth that people do not see," explained Ross Brawn. "He has this fluffy exterior that hides the steel inside him. "You saw that in the second half of the year. The first half of the year he was sublime."
F1 2010 season begins
British F1 legends tip Hamilton over Button for drivers' crown
Mercedes GP Ross Brawn with his drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher during a photocall at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain
Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher of Mercedes GP.
Mercedes Formula One driver Michael Schumacher of Germany drives his car during a testing session at the Jerez race track in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Great Britain's Jenson Button poses for a photograph with the new McLaren MP4-25 during the Formula One Testing Session at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain.
McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton during the launch of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-25 F1 Car at the McLaren Mercedes team headquarters, Newbury.
McLaren Mercedes Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain drives his car during a testing session at the Ricardo Tormo race track in Cheste.
Lewis Hamilton of McLaren shown in action at 'Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana' racetrack in Valencia, Spain.
Williams' Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello of Brazil waves during a test session at the at the racetrack of Montmelo, near Barcelona.
Williams' Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello of Brazil steers his car during a test session at the at the racetrack of Montmelo.
Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo hugs drivers Felipe Massa, of Brazil and Fernando Alonso of Spain, during the unveiling of the new Formula One car, in Maranello, Italy. Ferrari launched its car for the upcoming Formula One season, naming it the F10 in hope of a return to the team's winning tradition. For years Ferrari named its cars with an "F" for Ferrari followed by the year, but last year's uncompetitive car was called the F60 to honor Ferrari's 60th year in F1.
Ferrari Formula One driver Fernando Alonso walks in the paddock during a test session at the at the racetrack of Montmelo.
Fernando Alonso tests the new Ferrari during the Formula One Testing Session at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, Spain.
Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil steers his car during a test session at the at the racetrack of Montmelo.
Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli during the 2010 Lotus Formula One Car Launch at the Royal Horticultural Hall, London.
Fairuz Fauzy, Lotus F1 Team test driver on a test-drive at Jerez, Spain.
Richard Branson poses with two Virgin Racing drivers Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi during the launch of the Virgin Racing Team in Notting Hill, London.
Lucas di Grassi of Virgin Racing in VR-01. Virgin Racing is a new team for a new era of Formula 1.
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his car during a testing session at the Jerez race track in Jerez de la Frontera.
Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi during the Formula One Testing Session at Jerez, Spain.
Renault's Robert Kubica during the Formula One Testing Session at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.