Budapest: Jenson Button`s masterful Hungarian Grand Prix victory for McLaren may have signaled a more competitive second half of the Formula One season, but Sebastian Vettel still remains the firm favorite for the drivers` title.
Button celebrated his 200th GP by perfectly navigating a slippery race to claim his 11th career win and McLaren`s second straight since Silverstone, when the British team was struggling to compete with Red Bull and team principal Martin Whitmarsh`s position was under scrutiny.
McLaren, along with Ferrari, now appear the teams to match going into the latter half of the season.
"We are very quick in the race and in qualifying it is nice to see we have made some improvements, and it`s nice to see we are up there with the Red Bulls now," Button said. "They should be worried."
But McLaren`s improvement looks to have come too late to prevent Vettel defending his drivers` title.
The German increased the gap to Red Bull teammate Mark Webber to 85 points. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton is next, 88 points adrift, while Fernando Alonso is 89 points behind. Button is 100 points back, with a race win worth 25 points.
"I know it is very difficult to fight for the championship," Button said. "I am taking it one race at a time. I don`t look at the numbers. I will just keep my head down and concentrate on doing the best I can at each race.”
"I have to beat Seb in every race from now on, and we`ll go out and try and do just that."
Hamilton led most of the race at the Hungaroring but some tricky tire calls and a drive-through penalty dropped him down to fourth behind Alonso, who has also been on the podium for four straight races now.
Red Bull`s inability to hold on to pole position - they have started all 11 races first but won six of those - is a problem.
"We need to work hard as both of the McLarens are very, very strong in all sorts of conditions so it is clear now for a couple of races that they have done a step forward and we need to make sure we come back, definitely," Vettel said.
Vettel has won six races this season, and only once missed out on a podium finish when he finished fourth at the German Grand Prix. Button and Hamilton now have two wins each, while Alonso has claimed one.
Teams now go away for F1`s traditional summer break with the Belgian GP at Spa next on Aug. 28, and Vettel`s rivals are hoping at least to have given him something to think about.
"The chance for the world championship, it is for sure very difficult," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said. "The only thing that we can do is to try to win in the next couple of races and then we will see.”
"Maybe Sebastian will start to be a little worried, I hope, difficult, but I hope. Our aim is really to believe in it and to fight it out till the end."