Juan Pablo Montoya says he is aware of a rumour that Mercedes have a “big, big upgrade” on the way for the W13.
Mercedes are returning from the summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix still seeking a first win of the season, but with results steadily improving.
From being well off Ferrari and Red Bull’s pace at the start of the season, the eight-time consecutive Constructors’ champions became much more competitive throughout the four races in July.
They achieved back-to-back double podium finishes with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in France and Hungary before the recess, the latter having taken pole position on merit in Budapest.
Although developing a stronger car for 2023 will be an increasing priority for most teams in the final third of the calendar year, Mercedes are not of a mind to write off this season – and Montoya has heard they have something special in the pipeline.
“Coming out of the break, the rumour is that Mercedes have a big, big upgrade coming for the cars,” said the Colombian ex-F1 driver during an interview with Vegas Insider.
“If that’s the case, you know what’s going to happen. You know what’s coming.
“I think the big question mark everyone needs to pay attention to is the next couple of races. My personal thinking is everyone will come up with big upgrades. But I think Mercedes have still out-developed everyone else.
“Is Mercedes’ step so big that they will start winning every race and win the last nine races and have a one-two seven or eight times and have a shot at the Constructors’ Championship while everyone else fumbles?
“Or their step is starting to fight against Red Bull and Ferrari? That is the more realistic version of what I see coming. Mercedes might have a shot at winning a couple of races this year if their development goes well.”
How likely is it that Mercedes will take a big leap forward?
Although he talked a lot in his interview about upgrades, what Montoya did not really touch upon was the technical directive that takes effect at Spa.
If anything, this appears most likely to be what will reduce the margin between the front two and Mercedes if – certainly as George Russell suspects – the new measurements being taken by the FIA on the floor of the cars hinder Red Bull and Ferrari’s performance.
Montoya’s rumour about game-changing new parts may well prove to be correct, or he may have just been referring to the TD in a roundabout way.
What is the latest word out of Mercedes?
There was certainly no suggestion of anything spectacular in the works judging by Toto Wolff’s pre-Belgian Grand Prix weekend quotes.
Previously in such team previews, Wolff has mentioned “new developments”, but there was none of that this time from the team principal – who instead chose to reflect upon the hiatus during which work is mandated to cease.
“While we are still not quite in the fight for victories we are getting closer, so we need to keep the momentum going and the pressure on,” said Wolff.
“The shutdown is an important time for the team to take some time off, recharge and spend time with their families, whose support throughout the year is invaluable. There are few opportunities to do so during the season and the development race is relentless, so the break has been well deserved for everyone in the team.
“We are set for an intense second half of the season with nine more opportunities to find improvements, make progress and hopefully challenge Red Bull and Ferrari for wins.”