Ralf Schumacher believes that Valtteri Bottas could start to take vital points away from Max Verstappen in the World Championship battle if he maintains the strong level of performance shown at the Italian Grand Prix.
The Finn – who arrived in Monza off the back of the news that he will join Alfa Romeo in 2022 – took a dominant win in the Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday, though was unable to start from pole position in Sunday's main event due to engine penalties putting him at the back of the grid.
Despite this setback, Bottas fought his way through the field and ended the race in third position.
Schumacher thinks that, if Bottas continues in such a way, he could play a role in the title fight between Red Bull driver Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
"In Sochi [the next Grand Prix], a clear start-finish victory for Hamilton is likely under the circumstances [of Verstappen receiving a three-place grid penalty]," Schumacher told Sky Sport Germany.
"Red Bull couldn't even overtake McLaren in Monza. Max is certainly a bit more aggressive, but if he wrecks his tyres when he goes behind, it will be difficult.
"And if Bottas, the man of the weekend by the way, continues like this, he will also take away important points from Max."
As for the continued battle between Verstappen and Hamilton, Schumacher does not think that their run-in at Monza will be the last of the season.
"The fact that the two are fighting hard will definitely not be the last time," the former F1 driver said. "No one wants to cause an accident, of course, but the two give each other nothing.
"Hamilton is desperate for an eighth world title and Verstappen sees the chance to win the title now and is giving it his all. It's an absolute battle of equals with two super drivers. Perfect for us spectators!"
Following the Italian Grand Prix, Verstappen leads Hamilton in the World Championship standings by five points, whilst Bottas remains in third but with a sizeable gap to the title contenders.
F1 Podcast: Title battle heats up as Verstappen and Hamilton collide again!
It's time for the latest episode of our new Formula 1 podcast, with F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Thomas Maher and Mike Seymour discussing the fallout from a dramatic Italian Grand Prix weekend.