Ross Brawn believes it is entirely possible one team will dominate under next year's rule changes in the same way Mercedes dominates under the current set of technical regulations.
Mercedes has won 50 of the 58 races since the last major regulation change in 2014, with only Red Bull (five wins) and Ferrari (three wins) scoring victories in the same three-year period. The domination has its foundations in the work conducted under Brawn's leadership ahead of the last regulation change, and the former team principal can see another team doing the same in 2017.
"I think there are definitely some positives to what's happening in 2017," he told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "I think the reality is the longer you leave the regulations the same, the closer the teams get -- and you are starting to see that now. Mercedes is still winning but people are starting to nip at their heels and more time with the same regulations would make that even closer I'm sure.
"When new regulations come, someone gets on top of them quicker than the rest and that was always what I tried to do, but that slope that comes flattens off and everyone else catches up. But what you may well see next year is somebody takes an interpretation of the regulations, gets ahead of the game and has a big advantage. I don't know who that might be, but you could easily see someone disappearing [ahead]."
Red Bull or Mercedes?
Red Bull was one of the main instigators for change ahead of the drafting of the 2017 regulations and its expertise in aerodynamics have led to the belief it will excel next season. However, Brawn believes Mercedes is just as likely to find the key to 2017 success as Red Bull.
"Don't underestimate Mercedes, it's a strong outfit and a good car. There are four teams with Mercedes engines and only one that is winning, and there is a reason for that: it's a good team and a good car. Don't underestimate what Mercedes can achieve. But Red Bull would have been one of the main protagonists behind this rule change, which is why I say that the political element is always there in Formula One."
Faster cars but at what cost?
Aside from one team dominating the sport, Brawn is also concerned about the impact it has on racing. The 2017 regulations should see lap times reduce by as much as five seconds per lap next season, but much of that lap time will be found through enhanced aerodynamics. At the start of the year, several F1 engineers raised concerns over the problems that could create for cars following one another and Brawn also has his doubts about the new regulations.
"What one hopes is that it improves the racing from the point of view that it is much more challenging for the drivers physically. To drive that car at maximum speed for 50, 60 or 70 laps is going to be very challenging for the drivers. Therefore, I think you'll see more variation during a race of drivers fatiguing and losing performance -- that will be a positive element.
"Most of the performance gain -- there will be some gain from tyres -- but most of the performance gain appears to be from aerodynamic benefits and I'm always a little bit nervous about that because of the relationship between the cars on the track.
"The more aerodynamic performance you create, the more sensitive you are to the wake of the car in front. It's not always the case, because the aerodynamics can be profiled and shaped and managed to reduce that impact, but inherently that is the case. So I hope these regulations aren't going to impact the ability of these cars to race together.
"And they are going to be very quick! If everyone was saying the target was going to be three seconds per lap then you can guarantee it will be five seconds, because that is Formula One. In the calm of a meeting room, everyone can agree to the changes that they think mean three seconds a lap, but once the engineers get stuck in after a year of two it will be five seconds a lap. So the cars are going to be very quick next year."
Interview conducted by Jennie Gow