Former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya reckons Mercedes have now hit the right note with their W13 car, and expects them to be fighting for wins within the next five rounds of the season.
The Silver Arrows made a stuttering start to the year under the new technical regulations, and a great deal of their issues stemmed from the “porpoising” phenomenon as the floor of the car violently scraped the ground.
They managed to smooth this out in Spain last weekend, and their pace was consistently up there with Ferrari and Red Bull throughout practice.
Their improvements were exemplified by George Russell’s excellent battle with Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, and the 24-year-old ended up on the podium for his efforts.
Sir Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, ended the race fifth after an excellent recovery having been involved in a collision with Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap.
The seven-time champion said he was “grateful” to his team for the efforts that have turned his fortunes around having crossed the finish line outside the top 10 for the first time since 2013 in Imola, and Montoya predicts it is onwards and upwards for Mercedes now.
“I think this is the first step,” he told the Vegas Insider.
They are behind about four races. 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 got rid of the porpoising in the cars. Not bouncing anymore down the straights. 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.”
The eight-time constructors’ champions’ focus can now switch to enhancing the performance itself, and the Colombian is intrigued to see how quickly they can rectify it.
“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,” said Montoya.
“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’.”
Russell’s rostrum appearance in Barcelona was his second of the season, and Mercedes’ third.