Lewis Hamilton, with a stoicism and self-restraint many people thought was beyond him, has mostly bitten his lip since his decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes six months ago.
But on Sunday, when the Australian Grand Prix was long over, the post-race formalities completed and the night turned as black as the swans that sail on Albert Park's lake, Hamilton turned on those who had mindlessly criticised his momentous move.
To his credit he had previously declined an invitation to gloat on McLaren's misfortunes. But now, after his first serious day of work in Mercedes' silver livery, a day in which he qualified in third and finished a fighting fifth in the race itself, he had his say. "It's nice to prove people wrong," he said. "It has been everyone – particularly all the ex-drivers – a lot saying it was the worst decision ever, saying: 'He's going to finish nowhere; they're going to be nowhere.'
"And then they contradicted themselves, going the other way. They don't know what they're talking about. They're either this way or that way. But it's the bit in the middle. We have done a good job – we finished fifth. We have a lot to work on. We didn't ever come out and say: 'We'll kick everyone's butt.' We never said that we would be crap either. The team have done well, I'm really proud of my team. I'm proud of my decision as well."
To be fair to Hamilton's detractors, their criticism was not as mindless as all that. After all Hamilton had chosen to leave a team of consistent high achievers for one whose victory in China last year was their first in Formula One since 1955.
McLaren had guided Hamilton since he was 13, given him everything he wanted, including fame and fortune and the world championship in 2008. But the more they gave the more they wanted, developing in their champion driver, the naturally fastest in F1, a strong desire to break free from his nurturer-mentor and its sometimes oppressive corporate ethos. Those close to Hamilton's ear were mostly in favour of his move. But, ultimately, the decision was his own.What no one saw – including Hamilton himself, one suspects – was McLaren's apparently sharp decline from its already less than memorable 2012; Jenson Button somehow scraped two points in Australia in ninth while Sergio Pérez was out of the points in 11th. That, and a surprisingly well balanced and competitive Mercedes car, has placed Hamilton's difficult decision under a glowing light.
Where, perhaps, Hamilton's critics were unfair was in their suggestion that Hamilton was not a natural team leader, someone who, like Fernando Alonso, Ayrton Senna and the young Michael Schumacher, could inspire an operation through an engineering dedication and the power of personality, as well as driving ability. While there is much truth in that argument, it underestimated Hamilton's ability to inspire Mercedes with his pure speed and enthusiasm. He has given the team, as well as himself, a massive lift. And because he drives the car to the absolute limit he has also made it easier for the team principal, Ross Brawn, and his team to develop it further.
Hamilton added: "I didn't envisage it going as well, definitely not. I just thought it would be a positive, and it's even more of a positive. Moving forward, I hope there are many more positives to come. So it's satisfying for me, it's satisfying for the team. They're such hungry people, so hungry. That's reflected in the questions from all the mechanics. It's a great working environment. It's really nice to see. Every bit of detail that I can gauge is fed back in and they're going to be on it tomorrow.
"I don't think Red Bull have that big a gap on us. Maybe I'm wrong but that's my feeling. In the race it was interesting to see that they didn't run away with it and that a car that started seventh [Kimi Raikkonen's] stormed away with it."
It was also interesting to see Nico Rosberg, Hamilton's team-mate, heading off to do more work on the simulator for next Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. His game has been lifted too.
The sometimes under-rated Rosberg was always able to deal with a declining Michael Schumacher. Beating his old go-karting chum Hamilton is a different matter altogether.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © David Wall