Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle is hopeful that Ferrari and McLaren can join the fight at the pointy end of the sport this year as the new technical regulations denote a potentially more competitive season of racing in 2022.
The ground effect has returned in 2022, in addition to other aerodynamic changes that are intended to promote closer racing.
It could well bring more drivers into the battle for the title, but having watched Sergio Perez get out-qualified and out-scored comprehensively by champion team-mate Max Verstappen last year, the Briton is not sure the 32-year-old can sustain a meaningful title challenge.
“For a whole season, no, I honestly don’t think so. I don’t think he’s on the same level as Lewis and Max. Nobody is at the moment,” he said as per Motorsport-total.com.
Can Russell challenge Hamilton and Verstappen?
He is however excited about the prospect of new Mercedes signing George Russell, who has joined from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas and might have won in his one-off appearance for the Silver Arrows in 2020 had it not been for a pit stop blunder and a slow puncture.
“The real question is whether George [Russell] or anyone else can get to that level,” he added.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc scored five podiums between them in 2021, and managed points a combined total of 38 times en route to a third-placed Constructors’ Standings finish.
It was a massive step up from their abysmal 2020 campaign, and the 62-year-old has declared himself an avid fan of the Scuderia’s line-up.
“I’m a big fan of both Ferrari drivers. Doesn’t everyone want Ferrari to do well in Formula 1?” he said.
“So I hope that this year we will have four or five teams competing throughout the season.”
‘You can only go for Max and Lewis’
Verstappen and Hamilton comfortably out-performed their respective teammates last year, with Hamilton beating Valtteri Bottas 17-5 in qualifying, while the Dutchman defeated Perez 20-2.
Brundle maintains that anyone else will have a steep climb to reach the level that the leading two are currently operating at.
“But at the moment you can only go for Max and Lewis over a season until someone proves they can fight for the World Championship as well,” he explained.
“If you look at Sergio’s points tally compared to Max and Valtteri’s points tally compared to Lewis over five seasons, it says it all, doesn’t it? These guys are one step ahead.”
Mercedes and Ferrari have been exchanging the favourites tag with one another over the course of pre-season testing, and all will be revealed at this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.