Jenson Button has claimed that Red Bull Racing needs to get its act together on a regular basis if it is to stop his McLaren team from seizing control of the Formula One world championship this season.
While admitting that the RB6 has been blindingly fast over the first eight races of the 2010 campaign, Button - the reigning world champion - questioned the car's strength and reliability after seeing Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel take only three race wins from seven pole position starts. Having overhauled the two Red Bull drivers in the standings, Button currently trails McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton by three points, with Webber third overall, a further three points back.
The Australian appeared to be on a roll with back-to-back victories in Spain and Monaco, but has had to watch as Hamilton and Button claimed 1-2 results for McLaren in Turkey and Canada, albeit capitalising on a Webber-Vettel collision while chasing at Istanbul Park. That incident - which sidelined Vettel and consigned Webber to third on the road - is one of the reasons why Button suggests Red Bull may be on the back foot.
"They haven't got it together as often as I had thought they would," the McLaren driver told Reuters
in Valencia, "[In Canada], they were quite quick considering the type of circuit but, again, they finished fourth and fifth.
"It seems one of the cars always has an issue in the race and they need to back off. I don't know if it's because they always push the car to the limit, which makes them very quick in qualifying, but in the race they struggle. When they get it together, they are awesomely quick but, more often than not, they seem to have got it wrong somehow, be it reliability or strategy mistakes - or crashing into each other.
"I think we've got it right a lot more. We've had our problems and reliability issues - Lewis and I have both stopped in a race and we had trouble in qualifying in Malaysia - but, apart from, that we've been pretty good, pretty on the ball."
Although it was not expected to star in Valencia, Red Bull is again trying its own version of McLaren's F-duct in an effort to gain extra straight-line speed to add to the 'blown diffuser' concept that it has already used to good effect, and set second and third fastest times on the opening day of practice. Ferrari, meanwhile, is debuting its own blown diffuser system in Spain, with Button's McLaren team due to introduce its own version at Silverstone next time out, and the Briton refuses to rule out the threat from Renault and Mercedes this weekend.
"Our car will be good around here, but the Red Bull is going to be quick, and Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari are going to be bloody quick as well," he concluded, hedging his bets somewhat, "It's going to be competitive and no walk in the park for anyone."