Mark Webber suggests that Formula 1's new technical regulations in 2009 will lead to complete unpredictability at the start of the campaign, with a radical shake-up of the sport's traditional pecking order not out of the question.
The rules overhaul – including an eagerly-anticipated return to slick tyres, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) and key aerodynamic modifications – are being implemented in an effort to cut costs, improve environmental efficiency and spice up the on-track action, and will give teams even more work to do over the winter off-season to get their heads around the changes, Webber contends.
Who will emerge on top come the curtain-raising grand prix in Melbourne at the end of March, the Red Bull Racing star added, is effectively anyone's guess.
“No one knows who's going to have the best package,” Webber told Australian publication The Age
. “I think we're going to have cars that are unreliable at the start of the year.
“We're going to have a long winter testing programme in front of us. The cars are going to need a lot of sorting because there's so much new stuff.
“The regulations have been stable for the last four or five years, but we've got such a new slate next year and that's going to be the challenge for the teams.”
Another challenge Webber will undoubtedly face in 2009 is that which will be posed by his new team-mate Sebastian Vettel, promoted to the parent Red Bull outfit from 'junior' concern Scuderia Toro Rosso.
The German sent shock waves through the F1 paddock when he triumphed in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last month – adding the record of youngest-ever race-winner in the top flight to that of youngest-ever pole-sitter and points-scorer that he had already achieved – and Webber is well aware that the man from Heppenheim will be no pushover.
“Sebastian's had an amazing year,” the 31-year-old acknowledged. “Obviously he's finishing off very strongly. He had a tough start, and it's a real credit to Red Bull that they've nurtured a talent like that.