Max Verstappen believes that Mercedes are closing the gap to Red Bull, and may be in the hunt to challenge for top honours at certain circuits.
Having won eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships between 2014 and 2021, the Silver Arrows have slipped back this year, with the W13 showing a worrying propensity to porpoise in the season’s early rounds.
But with Mercedes scoring their fourth consecutive podium at the Austrian Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton challenging for the win at Silverstone one week earlier, Verstappen has talked up their improvement over recent races.
Verstappen reflects on Mercedes’ improvement
“They are better than at the start of the year, but they need just a little bit more,” Verstappen told Servus TV.
“They are not bad over a single lap, but in the race on Sunday you saw that we got away from them quickly.
“I also think it also has to do with the different circuits. At Silverstone they were very fast in the race.
“It’s the same with us and Ferrari. It’s about the details that can make the difference in the end.”
Verstappen’s comments echo those of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who said after the Austrian Grand Prix that the Silver Arrows had halved the deficit to the leading teams since the start of the year.
While a controversial title battle between Verstappen and Hamilton frequently saw Mercedes and Red Bull at loggerheads in 2021, the relationship between the two teams appears to have thawed somewhat this year, as Ferrari instead take the fight to Red Bull.
And despite the bitter nature of a 2021 title fight during which the two drivers collided with each other over the course of the year, Verstappen says he and Hamilton still respect one another’s ability.
“We all have a lot of respect for each other. If someone does well, you can of course just say that to each other,” Verstappen explained.
“Last year’s conflict was not necessarily between the drivers, but more between the teams.
“We are, of course, not fighting with Mercedes at the moment.
“I think it will be different if we do fight each other again. Maybe at the end of the season. We’ll see.”