Juan Pablo Montoya thinks Mercedes now face an impossible task to make it a straight eight of World Championships.
After dominating the turbo hybrid era with seven consecutive title doubles, Mercedes appear to have finally met their match in the shape of the RB16B.
Five races on the spin have been won by Red Bull, four of them going to Max Verstappen who consequently has moved 32 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
It’s a similarly emphatic picture in the Constructors’, for Red Bull’s advantage is up to 44 points after Verstappen triumphed in all three races of the season’s first triple-header staged in France and Austria.
With most of Mercedes’ development focus going on next year’s all-new car, they are clinging to the hope that a new update package for the British Grand Prix next time out will generate some improvement in the W12.
But ex-F1 driver Montoya, who still races across the Atlantic in sports cars and occasionally IndyCar, sees no way back for the reigning champions.
“In my view it will be very difficult for Mercedes,” the 45-year-old Colombian told Motorsport.com.
“At this stage, Max and Red Bull have clearly gained momentum. Max is doing great, he’s there week in week out. I don’t really see how they are going to beat him.
“The only aspect that still speaks in favour of Mercedes is that they will get upgrades at Silverstone. Hopefully that step is big enough to get closer to Red Bull, but I honestly don’t think it will be enough. I don’t see how they can turn this around.”
Montoya, winner of seven F1 races for Williams and McLaren between 2001 and 2006, is impressed by the maturity of Verstappen’s performances but says the supremacy of his car helps significantly with that.
“It’s much easier to be completely in control when you have the fastest car and everything is falling your way,” said Montoya.
“Then it’s easier to keep a cool head, to execute flawlessly, in fact everything becomes easier.
“I don’t think it’s about Hamilton being under pressure. Lewis is still a great driver in my view but Red Bull just have the faster car. Especially in the hands of Max, that Red Bull is on a different level.
“If you look at how things are going now, unless something special happens, you would assume Max should win this championship.”