Seven-time Formula 1 race winner Juan-Pablo Montoya believes Max Verstappen’s superior experience would see him prevail over Charles Leclerc in a title fight again and has also debated there is no guarantee he’ll have the measure of Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz in 2023.
Leclerc was embroiled in a close title fight with Verstappen in the early stages of last season before a string of driver and team errors, alongside a series of technical problems, allowed the Red Bull driver to sweep to victory in eight of the remaining 10 races after the summer break.
Asked to rate Leclerc and Verstappen’s prospective title chances for 2023, Montoya argued that the experience of already winning a championship places the Dutchman one step ahead.
“I wouldn’t say it’s at the same level. Because I think Charles is very good, but Max has more experience,” Montoya told the Motorsport.com Spanish website.
“And I think that the more experience and more victories, and with the championship now under his credit, that takes away a lot of pressure.
“So it’s much easier for Max to win the championship than for Charles – because Charles would go for his first.”
Throughout the course of last season, Leclerc had the upper hand within the Ferrari set-up as the championship runner-up registered 62 more points than Sainz and upheld the biggest head-to-head advantage of any set of team-mates on the grid in qualifying.
Despite Leclerc’s intra-team dominance over Sainz in 2022, Montoya has also cited that Sainz has the capacity to upstage the Monegasque driver at Ferrari and has drawn on the Spaniard’s slight victory in the standings in their debut year paired together at the Scuderia.
“And to tell the truth, if Carlos can be comfortable in the car, I think he can do a very good job. If we look at the old cars at the end of the year, not last year, but the previous year, Carlos was beating Charles every week.
“So it all depends on the comfort of the driver in the car.
Meanwhile, Montoya has also addressed the dynamic at Red Bull, expressing that Verstappen will not face a similar problem to Leclerc in needing to ward off an internal threat as the reigning World Champion has already proven he has the measure of Sergio Perez.
“Is ‘Checo’ [Perez] a better pilot than Max? The truth is that no.
“He is a very good driver, but I don’t think he’s at Max’s level,” he said.