x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Speed demons Red Bull looking to cut the gap

Sunday's race at the Nurburgring should given a definite sign on whether we are in for an exciting end to the world championship or whether instead it will be a canter for Jenson Button towards a first drivers' title.

Sebastian Vettel will be looking to cut down Jenson Button's 25 point lead at the top of the drivers' standings with victory at the Nurburgring on Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel will be looking to cut down Jenson Button's 25 point lead at the top of the drivers' standings with victory at the Nurburgring on Sunday.

Sunday's race at the Nurburgring should given a definite sign on whether we are in for an exciting end to the world championship or whether instead it will be a canter for Jenson Button towards a first drivers' title. Red Bull dominated the last race at Silverstone with a one-two finish and Sebastian Vettel, who won in Britain, is now 25 points behind Button in the championship standings. With nine races to go and 90 points left to fight for, the German will be hoping to make further inroads into that gap at his home race. The German Grand Prix should give us a much clearer sign of where the balance now lies and who has the faster car now between Brawn and Red Bull. Silverstone, with sweeping corners and high speed turns was always going to suit Red Bull, while the colder conditions disadvantaged Brawn as neither Button or Rubens Barrichello were able to generate full heat in their Bridgestones. Temperatures should be higher in Germany, although there is always the threat of rain there, so Brawn certainly shouldn't have the tyres as an excuse on a track which should suit them more, with a number of slow-speed turns and hard-braking corners. Red Bull have developed their car in the three weeks since Silverstone and Vettel is understandably bullish about his chances of a second successive victory, while teammate Mark Webber will be after a maiden win after four podium finishes this season. Circumstances have often dictated this season that Red Bull have not been able to show their true pace, but the fact that even allowing for mitigating circumstances of poor weather at Silverstone for Brawn, the fact Vettel qualified three tenths clear of everyone with four more laps worth of fuel was an astonishing effort. Vettel looked like a superstar in Britain as he pulled away by a second a lap in the first stint, despite being heavier on fuel and if he does have a car advantage now then he could be a very serious threat to Button's ambitions. If Red Bull are quicker at the Nurburgring and win the race in dry conditions on pure speed then it will be safe to assume they now have overtaken Brawn as the quickest package in the field. The important thing for Button and Brawn is not to panic. Button's 25 point cushion over Vettel leaves means the Brit can still afford to analyse and assess even if Red Bull do dominate in Germany. Button stayed calm at Silverstone when he was as low as ninth on the first lap before recovering to finish sixth and limit his points loss to Vettel to seven. As long as he keeps finishing well and scoring podiums, even if Vettel keeps winning, it will be hard for him to claw back a 25 point deficit. The Nurburgring should offer up a good race, with there being two good overtaking spots, as well as the already mentioned chance of an occasional rainstorm. The most famous example of the unpredictable weather was in 2007 where it was dry at the start of the race, yet by lap three conditions were so bad due to a thunder storm that it had to be red flagged. Toyota should also be a factor here and will be likely to be the best of the rest.

gcaygill@thenational.ae