Former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya believes Mercedes are 'four races behind' rivals Red Bull and Ferrari but believes they are 'coming' to the title fight and could challenge for success in Monaco.
A fresh upgrade package was introduced by the team for the Barcelona Grand Prix, resulting in significant improvements with George Russell securing a second podium of the season while Lewis Hamilton produced a remarkable drive to come back from a first-lap puncture to secure a sixth-placed finish.
That has provided Mercedes with a significant boost ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, as they seek to bounce back from a poor start to the season that has seen them struggle with 'porpoising' since the latest round of Formula One regulation changes.
However, those problems seem to have been fixed by the upgrades introduced for Barcelona and has put the team on the rise – but Montoya has made it clear he expects it to be a fairly slow process with a number of more races needed to bring the team back to the front.
“I think this is the first step, they are behind about four races," he told VegasInsider. "I think this is the first race for Mercedes where they go: ‘Okay, we have a baseline. We can work from here. We have enough speed now to get the job done. We have, we got rid of the porpoising in the cars. Not bouncing anymore down the streets. We can run the car where it needs to be run. Now, what do we need to do to improve it?’
“That's why I feel they are three of four races behind, because all the development they’ve done is to get rid of the porpoising. Now that the porpoising is gone, it’s going to be very interesting to see how quick the car becomes and how fast it can get upgrades.
“You have to remember, they fixed this and they probably have in the pipeline two or three more upgrades coming. And they are probably waiting for this to see how it works on the track. And as soon as they see progress on this they say: ‘Okay, next upgrade’.”
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While Montoya has made it clear Mercedes have a long road ahead of them, he does feel that the team can compete in Monaco: "I think Monaco is not that crucial with upgrades and downforce.
"Yes, downforce is important and everything, but it could be a good track for Mercedes. But the amazing thing in qualifying was that they didn’t look that strong, but in race pace they look amazing. So, I think Mercedes is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Russell is currently fourth in the Driver's Championship, 36 points behind leader Max Verstappen, with Hamilton a further 28 points adrift of his teammate and lying sixth.
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