HOCKENHEIM, Germany, July 22, 2012 (AFP) - Jenson Button believes McLaren are back in the hunt for world title glory after challenging for the win during Sunday's German Grand Prix.
The 2009 champion climbed from sixth on the grid to challenge race-winner Fernando Alonso of Ferrari for the lead before having to settle for third after being controversially passed by Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel.
However, the Briton later moved up to second after the FIA found the German's move to have been illegal and handed him a 20-second penalty.
Button, 32, who has struggled for pace in recent races, was boosted by the improved performance of his McLaren car and believes the Britain-based team are now in a position to start winning races.
"I am happy that we have done a good job and we have good pace. There is no-one quicker than us at the moment and we can fight for the win in the next few races," said Button.
"I have had some difficult races earlier in the year but in the last two I have felt confident in myself and the team, but we weren't quick enough, so to come here and fight at the front for the victory was a very special feeling.
He added: "We need a little bit more, as we always do, but you'd say we are in the mix and if we can sort out qualifying then we've got a really good chance of winning races at the moment."
His McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who qualified seventh, was forced to retire after a second lap puncture dropped him to the back of the field and ruined his chances in the race.
The 2008 champion fell victim to some debris from Ferrari driver Felipe Massa's opening-lap collision with Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Hamilton admitted to feeling frustrated but insisted the situation was unavoidable and that he had just been unlucky.
"My second-lap puncture was incredibly unfortunate: there was debris scattered across the full width of the track and I didn't have any option other than to drive straight through it," said Hamilton.
"What's more frustrating is that, at the time, I was the eighth car through -- so to be the one to get the puncture is just cruel luck."
In spite of this, the Englishman was also encouraged by the overall performance of his car.
"At least I was able to have some fun out on track -- my pace was good enough to be able to match the leaders during the middle stint. And that's encouraging for me, because we know our car's been genuinely quick this weekend.
"We'll put that pace in our pockets and take it to Hungary next weekend. I'm back in the car in five days' time, and that's the best possible news for me after a day like today."