Former grand prix driver Jolyon Palmer says he is worried for Red Bull ahead of the final six races of the 2021 Formula 1 season.
The energy drink-backed squad is currently engaged in a title battle with Mercedes, who is chasing its eighth consecutive double championship.
Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton by six points in the Drivers’ standings, while Mercedes heads Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship.
Last time out at the Turkish Grand Prix, Verstappen reclaimed the championship lead after finishing second behind Valtteri Bottas.
However, Palmer says Red Bull’s pace compared to Mercedes is a worry as the battle enters its final stage.
“You know what, for the first time this season I’m starting to think maybe Lewis is the favourite overall,” Palmer said, quoted by TalkSport.
“I actually think Verstappen can’t be happy with that race [in Turkey].
“Yes he’s taken second, he’s got the championship lead, but he was no match for Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton, if he was starting from pole which is where he qualified, he’s winning this easily I think.
“Lewis has taken his engine penalty, lost a few points, that was pretty much going to be a given unless something remarkable happened which it didn’t.
“But I’m worried for Red Bull because I can’t remember the last time they really showed a lot of pace.”
With three races in the Americas preceding the final events in the Middle East, Palmer believes the circuits are split when it comes to who will be faster.
“What I’ve thought is that USA, Mexico and Sao Paulo coming up could be better for Red Bull, but quite frankly I think the last three in the middle east could be better for Mercedes,” Palmer said.
“[Turkey] one was in between, no one really knew where it was going to go, and it was quite categorically Mercedes who was stronger.
“The fact that Bottas was completely unchallenged by Verstappen, they were one and two the whole race, but Bottas never had to check his mirrors and ended up winning by 15 seconds.
“That’s a statement by Mercedes, and even though Hamilton’s behind in the championship, he’s the stronger driver quite comfortably.
“He’s going to be able to apply the pressure and really turn the screw in the Middle Eastern races, Verstappen has to really fly in the next couple.”