Mark Webber has labelled Max Verstappen’s projection of the Mercedes Formula 1 team for the 2023 season as a “very polite” assessment.
Mercedes struggled throughout the 2022 campaign while Red Bull won 17 grands prix, 15 of those going the way of Verstappen.
The Dutchman dominated en route to a second F1 title, while Mercedes could only celebrate a single grand prix victory, which came at the penultimate round in Brazil.
Prior to 2022, Mercedes’ form throughout the turbo-hybrid era saw it consistently compete at the front as it won championships convincingly across the last several years.
Verstappen has spoken of Mercedes’ prospects for the 2023 season and believes that they will be a bigger threat to Red Bull next year.
However, speaking to motorsport.com, Webber thinks that Red Bull will still be the team to beat.
“I think that is especially very polite of Max,” Webber said. “I still think Red Bull will again be the most dangerous team at the start of the season.
“They gave a kind of clinic to the others. Once Max got comfortable in the car there was no stopping the rest at all.
“Red Bull as a team quickly got to grips with the reliability problems they had at the beginning of last season.
“Consistency was the biggest problem for opponents. Red Bull was actually strong on every [tyre] compound at the end, strong on high-downforce circuits and strong on low-downforce circuits.
“They had no real weakness left and Max as an individual I don’t think has any weakness at all, so they did give the competition some headaches.
“For Max, it was at times Formula 1 Plus in the past year. Spa was the highlight for me, how he sliced through the field there.”
Ahead of the new season, Mercedes has lost chief strategist James Vowles, who has left to join Williams as its new Team Principal.