Saturday, September 01, 2012
Button cannot be ruled out, says Horner
By Alan Baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Red Bull team boss Christian Horner lent support to Jenson Button on Friday by refusing to dismiss the Briton's Formula One title chances even with an 88 point gap between him and Ferrari's leader Fernando Alonso.
Button is 41 points adrift of his McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton with nine races remaining and has faced questions at the Belgium Grand Prix about the possibility of playing a supporting role.
The 2009 world champion has played down the gap by pointing out that Hamilton still thinks he has a chance of beating Alonso despite the Spaniard being ahead of him by an even greater margin.
"The points can change around pretty quickly," Horner, whose Australian driver Mark Webber is second overall and 40 points adrift of Alonso with double champion Sebastian Vettel two further back in third place, told reporters on Friday.
"I know Jenson's some way behind at the moment but if he puts a run together I think it would be premature to discount him even."
The Formula One season started with seven different winners in seven races, with Button winning the first in Australia, and has stood out for unpredictable and surprising results.
Alonso has said he does not have the fastest car of the leading teams, but that assertion was too much for Horner to swallow.
"I'm not sure he's right there," he smiled. "He's won more races than any other driver this year, scored more points and finished all the races...so he's the quickest combination with his car."
Of the four front-running teams, Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus all have one driver well clear of his team mate in the standings - with Alonso 139 clear of Felipe Massa - while Red Bull's pair are divided by just two points.
That could put Red Bull at a disadvantage if others invoke 'team orders' but Horner said both his drivers would remain free to race each other.
It was the same in 2010, when Red Bull won both titles for the first time despite Webber and Vettel remaining in contention right to the finish against Alonso and Hamilton.
"We gave both drivers the opportunity to go for the title and it came down to that final race in Abu Dhabi and it will be very much the same this year," he added.
"Both drivers are fully in the race for the championship and they both know they need each other to take points off Fernando as well."
Button made a similar point on Thursday, saying he would fight for as long as there was still a chance, while Hamilton did not expect or want any assistance to help him win.