Ron Dennis, the executive chairman of McLaren and someone who can look as austere as Stafford Cripps, did not look like a man likely be pushed around by Lewis Hamilton's agents, XIX Entertainment, at the Italian Grand Prix.
McLaren are being asked at least to match Hamilton's current salary of £15m a year in order to see off the interest of Mercedes; it has been suggested he had been asked to take a pay cut. But Dennis, more a forbidding figure than a bidding one, did not look in the mood to move very far.
He said: "Our shareholders have a position, then the board has a position then [team principal] Martin [Whitmarsh] has to handle what that position is. It would be totally inappropriate for me to say anything that would undermine Martin's position because negotiations are at a very delicate stage."
When asked whether having two British drivers was important, he added: "Having two British drivers is nice but it is not essential. We always have the two best available drivers. Nationality is not that critical to us."
Meanwhile Whitmarsh, who is expected to be involved in more contractual talks this week, said: "We want Lewis to stay if he wants to stay. I haven't given Plan B any thought."
A very downbeat Hamilton said after his victory on Sunday: "I'm winning at the moment, so it's a good position to be in. I don't really know what else to say. I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to score victories with this great team.
"I can't say there was huge pressure. I think if Pérez was a lot closer to start with, then it would have been quite tough but the last few laps I had to accelerate a little bit." And was he talking to Dennis this week? "No," Hamilton replied.
Button, meanwhile, looked the happier of the two drivers, though he did concede winning the title would be difficult after he retired from Sunday's race. "It is going to be very difficult but nothing is going to change," he said. "I am still going to race hard and try and win every race from here on in. But when one of us scores well, the other doesn't score at all. We scored 25 points in the last two races and that is by winning while the other guy has not finished. It is not good and we have got to sort that out."
The happiest man on Sunday appeared to be Fernando Alonso, even though he was beaten into third place. The Spaniard increased his lead at the top of the championship table and said: "This Sunday was perfect for the championship, almost like a film with a happy ending. Another podium finish, three of my closest rivals with no points and an increased lead over my closest pursuer. I remain convinced that, but for the problem in qualifying yesterday, we could have had every chance of starting from pole and, if we can be equally competitive on Saturdays, it will be very important for the end of the season."
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