Red Bull Racing's head of car engineering Paul Monaghan believes that the level of competitiveness at the front of the grid is exaggerating the difference between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Webber has come under pressure for failing to match Vettel this season, leaving him 77 points adrift of his championship-leading teammate. But Monaghan believes that there has not been much between the two drivers this year.
"When you look at the gaps, they are actually minute," Monaghan said at Thursday's FOTA Fan Forum at McLaren's headquarters in Woking, UK. "It's the consequence of such a competitive sport; one small mistake can cost you quite a lot."
Monaghan believes that the penalty for a small mistake in qualifying is being heavily punished this year, and that can lead to even bigger gaps between teammates on Sunday afternoons.
"In the last part of qualifying, you might see that one driver makes a mistake in one corner, and then pays the price for it all the way down the subsequent straight," he said. "That can produce a lap time difference of two tenths.
"All of a sudden that's three places on the grid, and you've got people saying, 'What's happening there?' The gaps are surprisingly small, so I wouldn't say that anybody was under performing.
"The cars are separated by eight meters on the grid, so all of a sudden you can be 36 meters behind your teammate wondering what on earth has happened. In our case, I'm sure Mark will sort Sebastian out at some point during this year, and he probably can't wait to do it at Silverstone. So we'll see what happens."