It was a clearly hesitant Lewis Hamilton that shook the outstretched hand of Formula 1 title rival Nico Rosberg to signal the start of this weekend’s countdown towards either championship ecstasy or agony.
Organised by the FIA ahead of the final drivers’ press conference of the year, the Mercedes team-mates were asked to take centre stage for photographers.
Rosberg was the first to extend his right hand, with Hamilton pausing for a few moments before reaching out in reply, gripping tightly.
As olive branches go, with Rosberg appearing to smile warmly but with Hamilton playing it more straight-faced, it was an uneasy truce ahead of battle commencing in Abu Dhabi.
At stake is the 65th F1 world title, with just Hamilton and Rosberg in the running.
Holding a 17-point lead, Hamilton has the advantage, insisting that “in terms of the pressure, I don’t feel any”.
Hamilton added: “I’ve had plenty of experience through my racing career – 15-odd years I would say, actually it might be 20 years of racing – to be prepared for this. There’s no special recipe for it.”
A Rosberg victory means Hamilton has to finish third or worse, hard enough when you consider Mercedes have finished the last six races one-two.
Elsewhere in the paddock, the worst-kept secrets in Formula 1 were finally confirmed.
Sebastian Vettel will replace Fernando Alonso at Ferrari after the four-time world champion joined the team on a three-year contract.
The news came shortly after Ferrari had revealed Alonso would be leaving the team after Sunday’s race – paving the way for him to make the switch to rivals McLaren.
The Woking-based marque will not now be revealing their driver line-up until December 1 at the earliest as Group CEO Ron Dennis cannot decide on whether Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen should be the Spaniard’s team-mate.
“It’s a new chapter in my career,” said Alonso. “It was the time to find new projects – but it was not an easy decision.”