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Jenson Button is going to demand answers when McLaren's technical staff meet today to try and discover why their car has become so slow.
The Woking team had a deeply disappointing British Grand Prix at Silverstone with Lewis Hamilton, a winner in Canada only last month, finishing eighth and Button 10th.
Button, the 2009 world champion and winner of the season-opening race in Australia, is now a hefty 79 points adrift of Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso with 11 races remaining. Hamilton is 37 points off the Spaniard's pace.
“We don't have the pace of the top three teams. At the moment we are racing the Williams, the Sauber and the Force India,” Button said candidly. “That's where we are at the moment and, personally, I don't feel they had the best weekend... I feel that if the Williams and Sauber had a good day, they would have beaten us. So we've got a lot of work to do.”
A notably smooth driver, Button has struggled to get crucial heat into the tricky Pirelli tyres but the 32-year-old felt there was much more to it than that. “We just didn't have the pace,” he said. “The balance doesn't feel too bad, on high-speed corners the car is reasonable, on low speed it's not fantastic but not bad.
“So when you see a car come past you like you're just stood still it's a surprise... I don't know where we are missing out, I don't know how so many teams can be getting it right and we can't.”
McLaren have now slipped from second to fourth in the constructors' championship, behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus - a shock for a team that has finished the last seven seasons in the top three. “We've got to improve,” added Button. “We've got a technical meeting [today] which is going to be quite a sombre meeting but we're going to be quite aggressive, everyone in the meeting, about trying to improve this car.”
The pace of Red Bull and Ferrari at Silverstone on Sunday, where Mark Webber became the second man to win two races this season, pushes both towards pole position as the World Championship moves to its midpoint before the summer break.
For 47 laps, Alonso looked set fair to repeat his historic victory of 2011 for Ferrari, but Red Bull's Webber turned the tables with just five laps left and confirmed that the step forward the Milton Keynes team had taken in Valencia a fortnight earlier was no fluke.
It was a very popular victory for the Australian, who arguably lost the title two years ago when he spun out of the Korean Grand Prix, and had seemed a pale shadow last year of the man who had given team-mate Sebastian Vettel such a hard time. Vettel had stepped in at the 11th hour to snatch the crown in 2010, and did so again in 2011 as Webber appeared to struggle to match his pace at the height of development of the double diffuser aerodynamics and in the first season of Pirelli's tyres. Now, the never-say-die Australian is back on form and has scored points in all but one of the nine races. Sunday yielded his ninth Formula One win, bringing him closer to Australia's great world champions Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, who have 14 and 12 victories apiece.
“I think it was a very interesting race,” Webber told Sir Jackie Stewart on the podium. “I thought at the start Fernando had very good pace. We used a bit of strategy here and there. Obviously, Fernando started on different tyres. But we never gave up, kept pushing and it didn't really work out for him at the end. It's a very, very special victory for the team.”
Alonso still leads the title chase, with 129 points to Webber's 116 and Vettel's 100, but the strength of the current Red Bull package allied to the rejuvenated hunger to put right that costly mistake in Korea, makes him a formidable threat. -The Independent