Formula One motorsport executive Ross Brawn believes Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team could be off the pace when the new season starts.
Hamilton’s toxic championship battle with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen went down to the wire last year.
And Brawn, who has spearheaded a massive overhaul of the sport’s technical regulations, says Mercedes – winners of the past eight constructors’ championships – and Red Bull might have taken their eyes off the ball.
Jenson Button profited in 2009 when Brawn GP took advantage of a regulation change, winning six of the opening seven races en route to the title.
Hamilton was the defending champion at the time but his McLaren team endured a torrid campaign and he took just two victories.
The budget cap for the forthcoming year also restricts teams to spending 140million US dollars (£103m).
“Mercedes and Red Bull could be impacted,” said Brawn. “Last year, human resources were devoted to fighting a very intense world championship.
“Some of the teams further back didn’t have that consideration.
“If I had been Ferrari or McLaren in the very early part of last year, I would have put everything into the 2022 car.
“That is what happened in 2009. The year before there was a big battle between Ferrari and McLaren and they fell flat on their faces. I don’t think it will be that severe but is a good point.
“A team has to balance its financial resources each season, too, and you cannot simply throw money at it. That is what teams with deep pockets did in the past. It will provide us with a more competitive field for the future.”
Hamilton’s gripping title tussle with Verstappen contributed to one of the sport’s greatest seasons and there is a possibility that F1’s rulebook rewrite could thwart a second chapter.