LONDON (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has made too many mistakes to be fighting for the Formula One title, according to champion and aggrieved rival Jenson Button.
Vettel, 23, ploughed into Button’s McLaren at Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix — ending the Briton’s race and wrecking his own chances.
The German has now failed to score in three of the 13 races and was also in a costly collision with his own team mate Mark Webber while trying to seize the lead at the Turkish Grand Prix in May.
Vettel is 28 points behind Webber and a further three adrift of McLaren’s overall leader Lewis Hamilton.
Button, who was in second place in the race at Spa at the time of the incident, is fourth overall and four points behind Vettel.
“For me he (Vettel) has made too many mistakes this year to fight for the world championship but he is extremely quick, we can’t take that away from him,” Button told Reuters.
“To get seven poles is extraordinary in the amount of races we’ve had (13), but to throw that many away is also very surprising,” he added.
Vettel, nicknamed ‘Baby Schumi’ when he came into Formula One by countrymen eager to see an heir to seven times champion Michael Schumacher, has taken just two wins to Webber’s four this season.
While Red Bull’s golden boy struggled home in 15th place, after collecting a drive-through penalty for causing the collision, Schumacher raced from 21st on the grid to seventh for Mercedes.
Asked whether Red Bull might now focus on Webber’s title challenge, Button shook his head.
“I don’t think they will. I think they love Vettel,” he said. “I don’t think they will put all their eggs in one basket.”
Button had said in the immediate aftermath of the race that the crash had dealt a massive blow to his hopes of back-to-back titles but, on reflection, he saw the situation in a less depressing light.
He also retired from the Belgian Grand Prix in 2009, his title year, and said he had the same feeling now as then that the championship was slipping away.
“When I got out of the car and walked into my drivers’ room, I said that it massively hurt my championship and coming back from this is very difficult,” he said.
“But I was very down at that point, as you would be after losing so many points.
“Looking at it now, it’s 35 points which is still a lot but in old money (the 2009 scoring system) it’s about 14 or 15 so it’s definitely still possible.”
The next race is the Italian Grand Prix and Button was confident he could do well at a track that should play to McLaren’s strengths even more than Spa.
“I’m in a position now where I’ve just got to go there and hope for a race victory and work towards it,” said the Briton.
“If I can come away with another race victory in Monza then it’s a very different atmosphere and feeling for me. It’s a circuit I love and where I will do very well this year. I’m confident in the car and I think I’ll have a good weekend.
“I am positive, but I’ve taken a big knock.”
Editing by Alison Wildey; To query or comment on this story email: email@example.com