Marc Marquez may carry one of the most constant, refreshingly impish grins seen at the elite level of MotoGP in a generation. But beneath that playful visage spins the mind of cold killer.
Everyone knew Marquez was mind-meltingly quick from his very first test on the RC213V last fall at Valencia. Five wins and 10 months later, everyone knows Marquez is the odds-on favorite to become the first rookie World Champion since Kenny Roberts in 1978.
But everyone also is learning that Marquez can play mind games as well as anyone in the garage. He's filling the role vacated by his predecessor at Repsol Honda, Casey Stoner, very well - just with a bit less piss and vinegar.
Marquez has a 34-point lead - more than a race - over Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa with just five races to go. And while he can't control what happens at Yamaha Factory Racing, he is clawing marks into the floor of his team's garage.
"When you are on track, the first enemy is your teammate," Marquez said. "We always have that competition in the garage. For me, though, it is clear that right now Dani is the number one in the team. He is the one who has to win the title, and I am the rookie. That's how I started the year, and that's how I will finish - and I have no intention of taking a different role because it's not my moment.
"We'll see what happens next year, but right now my role is to be a rookie, and I am making the most of it because I don't have responsibilities or pressure. I can ride with more freedom."
Translation: Dani, you have been considered a legitimate threat for the championship every year since your second season, in 2007, and you have zero titles. I'm going to win it as a rookie, and I know that's driving you and your puppetmaster, Puig, insane.
The kid knows how to push all the right buttons.