Jenson Button does not believe Red Bull’s dominance in Japan will prove to be a one-off.
Sebastian Vettel took advantage of Fernando Alonso’s first-lap crash to cruise to victory at Suzuka and move within four points of the lead of the championship.
The victory capped off a weekend when the Milton Keynes-based team had the edge on all their rivals, and a one-two finish would have been likely had Mark Webber not been turned around by Romain Grosjean at turn two.
Button trails Alonso by 63 points after finishing fourth, having risen to third place by the end of lap one after starting eighth. However, he was denied a podium finish as Felipe Massa got past him at the first round of stops and he could not overhaul the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi during his final stint.
Having watched Vettel romp to victory ahead of Massa, Button is concerned Red Bull’s pace sends out an ominous message for the rest of the season. “Red Bull were very strong and we weren’t on their pace today,” the Somerset-born driver said.
“We were very similar to the Saubers and the Ferraris. The Ferrari was probably a little bit quicker. We’ll see what happens when we get to Korea.
“I think they [Red Bull] are a little bit quicker than what we thought, but they’re always quick here. Last year, you’d say they weren’t as quick as normal, and that’s the reason we could fight for the win. But this is, for some reason, always a very good Red Bull circuit.
“We’ve got to hope that this is a stand-out race for them but I’d be surprised. They’re going very well and they’re doing a good job. Getting both cars on the front row proved that.”
Button added: “I don’t know if we will be any quicker in Korea, we have to wait and see, we didn’t have the pace here. If I had started third, in front of Kamui, I probably could have finished third but it is difficult when you have a penalty, it wasn’t perfect but I am happy for Kamui in his home country.”
Button was delayed slightly at his second stop by a problem with his right-rear wheel, but he does not believe it would have made any difference to his final result.
“I don’t think it made the difference,” he said. “It would have had to be a couple of seconds quicker and that was not possible.
“The first stop was fine but it cost us, because we came out behind a Toro Rosso and Kamui and I could not get overtake him, so it cost us a lot of time to Felipe.
“But it was always going to be difficult to keep Felipe behind us because he had a brand new set of tyres in the first stint which makes a big difference as you can go longer in the first stint and keep that speed for longer.”