Sebastian Vettel's single-handed dominance of Formula 1, which saw him win five of the opening six races of the year, has now come to an end as the season enters its final phase, reckons his Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber.
Vettel opened up a solid lead in the World Championship thanks to a brilliant start to the campaign, where only Lewis Hamilton's triumph in China prevented him taking a clean sweep of wins from Australia to Canada. But with Vettel now having not won since the European Grand Prix in June, and rivals McLaren and Ferrari having triumphed in the last three races, Webber is convinced that the fight for victory is now going to be very tight for the remainder of the campaign.
When asked in Belgium if he could see Vettel re-establishing the level of dominance he had at the start of the year, Webber said: "No, that's over. I think that's over, in terms of having five, six or seven victories on the bounce. I think that is not going to happen. I think it will be more spread out.
"It will be the same customers. Then you will have the normal suspects, the normal guys winning, and I am looking at getting involved as well."
Although Vettel has an 85-point lead over Webber in the title chase with eight races remaining, Webber does not think the championship is in the bag yet, and reckons that it would only take a few on-track slip-ups to turn the battle on its head.
"No, not if Seb doesn't finish two races. I wouldn't just rely on someone not dominating. There are eight races to go, Seb is in a great position but it is not completely comfortable yet."
With the competitive order already so tight at the front, Red Bull Racing also faces the prospect of facing what could arguably be viewed as its two toughest races of the season in Spa and Monza. Webber is under no illusions that things are going to be hard, but thinks that his team should still be able to fight it out near the front.
"I see the weekend being tight, to be honest," he said. "Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull, there will be no clear advantage I don't think. It is going to be a very tight grand prix as we've seen in the last three or four races.
"The form card this year has been tighter everywhere. If you look at Budapest and Silverstone, they were two tracks in the past that we were very strong at. And Barcelona, too – Seb got pushed over the line by Lewis.
"So, the tracks have tightened up a lot for us in terms of the advantage we had at some of our better tracks. So let's see at some of the tracks where in the past they have been a bit more challenging for us to challenge for the win. Let's see how they unfold in the next three weeks. One here and then the next one in Monza. In Canada the car wasn't too bad – we were pretty competitive there and we learned a lot in that situation with the low downforce."
Vettel himself agrees that things will be hard this weekend, but he believes the outfit has learned lessons from its recent form.
"It is not our favorite circuit, because there are a lot of straights here, more than most of the other circuits," he said. "The last couple of races we may not have been on top of our game, but we have understood and we will see where we are this weekend."
Those lessons are likely to revolve around the use of tires, with Red Bull Racing having faced difficulties in warming its tires up for qualifying yet also suffering high degradation on race stints in recent events where temperatures have been cooler. Speaking about the effort in that area, Webber said: "We are doing everything we can to understand all that. You obviously are fully aware that I am not going to sit here and tell you how we are going to do that – that is obviously car racing and the game we are in.
"McLaren has done what it is doing, we are doing what we are doing, and we have had an incredibly successful recipe for a long, long time the last few years. Adrian [Newey] is the guy who is not looking at the results, he is looking at performance, how to make it better, irrespective of the guys closing in on us.
"It is not a reaction of, 'We must try this or we must try that.' It is, 'Let's keep improving,' but when you get nailed fair and square it might narrow the focus a bit to look at how they are doing it. It is not that you are going to turn the world upside down. There are a lot of things to look at these days and the cars are very, very technical."