MADRID — Although Jenson Button holds a sizable lead in the standings, Red Bull’s recent performance gives Sebastian Vettel hope of winning his home German Grand Prix and injecting some drama into Formula One’s championship race.
Vettel finished ahead of teammate Mark Webber for his second victory of the season in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a result that kept Button on six wins in eight races.
Though no driver has been so dominant by the halfway point of the season and not gone on to win the championship, seven drivers have won six times in a season without taking the title.
Even so, Webber believes the Austrian team will need help to catch the Button.
“He’s been so impressively consistent and just doesn’t make mistakes,” Webber said. “If he loses the title now, it will be down to a problem from the team, not him.”
Webber is counting on the Red Bull team to maintain both his and Vettel’s chances of catching Button, who finished a season-worst sixth at the British GP.
“It is too early to start backing one driver, and the team are being brilliant with that,” the Australian driver said. “Sebastian is only 3.5 points ahead of me in the drivers’ championship, which means mathematically I still have a chance to do very well.”
Button has 64 points, Barrichello 41, Vettel 39 and Webber 35.5.
Barrichello will be glad to return to the Nordschleife track after last season’s race was held at Hockenheim due to an alternating arrangement between the circuits.
The Brazilian came from 18th on the grid to win at Eifel hills for Ferrari in 2002 and has also reached the podium five times.
“The layout and flow is nice, which allows you to get into a rhythm and there are some interesting undulations and bumps to look out for,” Barrichello said. “It will be interesting to see how the circuit feels in a good car.”
Rain is expected to play a part in Friday’s practice sessions. That could provide an extra boost to Vettel, who has already shown his skill on wet tracks with victories in rain-soaked conditions at Monza and China.
“This is special because being at home is the best place to stay,” said the 21-year-old Vettel, who is hoping to join Michael and Ralf Schumacher as the only German drivers to win three times in a season. “The new Nuerburgring is one of the better modern tracks. Even the schnitzel in the local pubs is legendary.”
Vettel is one of five German drivers expected to star on Sunday, with Toyota’s Timo Glock and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld hoping to give those two Germany-based teams a chance. The other Germans likely to be in the grid are Nico Rosberg for Williams and Adrian Sutil for Force India.
While Brawn and Red Bull are battling at the front of the grid, perennial powers like Ferrari and McLaren continue to lag at the back.
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen has written off the Italian team’s chances of winning a race this season. The last time Ferrari was blanked for a whole season was 1993.
“Realistically this year our objective can’t be a win,” Raikkonen said on Wednesday. “We still have to make up ground compared to the leaders as far as the performance is concerned. That’s why the team continued to work very hard over the last weeks to bring some new solutions to this race.”
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton has scored just nine points, with McLaren off the podium for nine races and out of the points for four straight giving the British team its worst run since 1980-81.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who won here two years ago for McLaren, was trying to take any positives in a car that left him 14th at Silverstone.
“I still had some fun battles, especially with Lewis, but I prefer to be fighting at the front,” the Renault driver said.