Max Verstappen leads the 2021 F1 drivers' championship by six points over Lewis Hamilton and it's tough to find too many instances during the season where the Dutchman has not delivered his best.
For former Red Bull driver Mark Webber, Verstappen as a driver is not a concern when it comes to the title battle. What is concerning, however, is the car that he's driving.
Since the summer break, Red Bull have been playing catch-up to Mercedes and the last few races have been nothing short of damage-limitation runs for Verstappen.
It started at Monza, where Mercedes had the upper hand on Red Bull, and the trend has carried on since. The 26-year-old's inability to threaten Valtteri Bottas' chances of victory in the Turkish Grand Prix was enough evidence of the deficit.
"Max Verstappen is just hanging in there" - Mark Webber
In the latest edition of the F1 Nation podcast, Webber expressed concerns over the car Verstappen has at his disposal, by saying:
"I think that my little concerns off the back of [the race in Turkey] are: is Red Bull giving Max the car closing this championship out? Because I think that I would have lost a lot of money for Valtteri to have the measure of Max in those conditions. I thought Verstappen would run rings around him all day long, but he couldn’t react to the speed of Valtteri."
Admitting that Verstappen has been doing well to make the best of trying circumstances, Webber said:
“It was interesting. I think in terms of performance [in both the] dry and wet, Red Bull knows they need to react to the Mercedes’ pace now, with these new engines that Mercedes have put in the back of the car, or some aero, or whatever’s going on. Max is hanging in there. OK, he had a shunt in Monza, but I think [in] Russia he drove brilliantly, obviously, and that’s all he could get out of the car in Turkey as well.”
Mercedes' power-unit gains have left Red Bull a bit mystified and they are finding it hard to react to the straight-line speed advantage of the German team. Even Helmut Marko has claimed that Mercedes would hold an advantage in at least four of the next six tracks. If that is the case, then Verstappen's six-point lead will be tough to defend and the maiden title might just be a bridge too far.