Jenson Button is not expecting a random look to the Formula 1 pecking order this year as a result of the new regulations.
As the days count down to the first on-track running – shakedowns excluded – of the all-new cars in Barcelona from February 23-25, some figures involved in the sport think it is difficult to predict who will master the rules.
It is not inconceivable a team could leap from being also-rans in 2021 to the class of the field in 2022, a bit like Brawn GP did in 2009 when the regulations were changed and they effectively had the World Championship wrapped up as early as June.
The chief beneficiary of that as a driver was, of course, Button, who won six of that season’s first seven races, but he does not anticipate history repeating itself 13 years on.
Asked in an interview with Sky Sports which team he sees as being favourites to win the world title, the 2009 champion said: “I have to say Mercedes.
“I think Red Bull were strong last year, but throughout the season Mercedes got closer and closer and they overtook them on outright pace.
“We all know to beat Mercedes you have to be faster than them as they don’t make mistakes as a team.
“I think Mercedes and then it’s the fight between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, which I really cannot wait for. Two Brits in Mercedes cars fighting for a World Championship, hopefully.”
Even in the next rank, Button is not expecting any sweeping changes to the hierarchy, merely suggesting last year’s bronze medallists could be the ones to watch again.
Asked to name a dark horse, with Alpine and McLaren mentioned by the interviewer, the 42-year-old Williams advisor responded: “Well, they are all superpowers in F1, they have all won championships in F1.
“Ferrari are the one who made the biggest step forward, I would say, so possibly Ferrari with their great driver line-up.
“But then again, so does McLaren and I think it’s a really exciting team. I was with them in a peak and then it dropped away and now it’s great to see them come fighting back to be at the front.
“There is a lot of change up and down the grid. It’s great to see Alex Albon back in F1 [at Williams] – second opportunity and in a team I work closely with too.”