LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JULY 24: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain with Pierre Wache, Chief Engineer of Performance Engineering of Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and The Netherlands and George Russell of Mercedes and Great Britain during the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 24, 2022 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Montoya: Red Bull should fear Mercedes more than Ferrari

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JULY 24: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain with Pierre Wache, Chief Engineer of Performance Engineering of Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and The Netherlands  and George Russell of Mercedes and Great Britain  during the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 24, 2022 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Juan Pablo Montoya believes that 2023 Formula 1 World Championship favourites Red Bull and Max Verstappen have more to fear from Mercedes than Ferrari this season.

Last year, in terms of the pecking order, Ferrari emerged on top out of the blocks, with Red Bull chasing until Max took command, while Mercedes faltered seriously with their troublesome W13.

By season send Red Bull was ahead of the pack with Mercedes having clawed themselves back into contention, matching Ferrari if not bettering.

Speaking to Netherlands Motorsport last week, looking into his crystal ball, Montoya said: “If I were Red Bull I would look more at what Mercedes will come up with than what Ferrari will come up with.

“Why? Because when I look at Ferrari’s pitstops and strategies, I’m like, ‘Who the hell is making these decisions?’ It pains me to say that because I know how difficult it is to make decisions under high pressure.

“But if the person in charge of strategy doesn’t make the right calls, then at some point you have to say, ‘We have to get someone else.’ However? And if the person responsible for the strategy is the right person, then they should be better supported in their work. In any case, something has to be done, because too many mistakes are being made.”

“Do you know what the problem is? Red Bull is so good strategically that compared to them everyone else looks stupid. It’s not that the others don’t know what they’re doing, it’s just that Red Bull is much, much better at determining the right strategy and successfully executing that strategy.

“And if it ever happens that they make a wrong decision, they know how to play it in such a way that it still works out well for them. And if the others make a good decision, they make an even better one. So yeah, how are you going to beat that?”

Furthermore, Montoya believes that Verstappen’s two F1 world titles has taken the pressure off him and thus no big surprise the former F1 winner has the 25-year-old earmarked as favourite, everyone does!

Monty: Max knows he can beat anyone

formel-1-red-bull-racing-max-verstappen world champion

But Montoya justifies his prediction by pointing to the Dutchman’s two F1 world titles as his greatest assets, with them on his CV the pressure is off the Champ, unlike one of his expected rivals Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who lags in wins, and a title eludes him; ditto George Russell at Mercedes.

From what he sees in his F1 crystal ball, Montoya fancies Red Bull’s chances: “I would say they are pretty good. I think Max is in a very good place mentally. He knows he can beat anyone. If you also have a car with which you can win, then it looks good for you.

“With that in place, he will certainly get the job done again. Last year Max had to step it up a notch because the car initially didn’t suit him very well. But if you look at how Checo did at the start of the season, Max made a huge step during the season and really had to put his best foot forward, but he did and that was cool to see.”

The conversation turned to Ferrari, can they stop Verstappen and RBR from dominating again? Montoya reasoned: “To be honest, I think Carlos Sainz can also do a great job if he has a good feeling in the car. If you look at the last year with the old cars, Carlos was regularly in front of Charles. So it largely depends on how comfortable a driver feels in the car.

“For example, Max was not completely comfortable in the car at the beginning of last season, but Checo was able to handle it well. Checo was a few times faster than Max, but is he also a better driver than Max?

“Not really, if I’m honest. He is a very good driver, but he is not on Max’s level. It was just that he had a car that suited him well, and Max not so well.”

“And that’s where the team comes in. Red Bull knows exactly what Max needs and how to make the car better for him. And that’s what I like so much. Red Bull has always been very good at making progress with a car. They know how to develop a car.

“Just like Mercedes. If you look at how those two teams can develop their cars and compare it to the rest of the grid, they are really on a different level. Last year Ferrari clearly had the fastest car at the start of the season.

“But during the year they find three-tenths and Red Bull and Mercedes one second; they were probably closer to Ferrari towards the end of the season than Ferrari was to Max and Red Bull.”

The only real blemish on last year’s double F1 title hall for the Blues was the cost cap breach in 2021, for which they were penalised this year, how that will affect their performances remains to be seen.

Montoya is on the fence regarding that one: “I have no idea. They had to pay a $7-million fine and can spend ten percent less time on aerodynamic testing for 12-months. Of course, they do a lot with computer simulations these days, but I really don’t know what impact it will have on the team’s performance.”