Former F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg says he's sampled in the simulator a 2022 design and reckons that this year's all-new F1 cars will be "pretty damn fast".
Hulkenberg, who has pretty much given up on returning to F1's grid, was Aston Martin's reserve driver last season, a role that apparently gave him an opportunity to drive a new-spec car in the team's sim.
With ground-effects the centerpiece of this year's regulation overhaul, F1's 2022 design should produce significantly less dirty air in a car's wake which in turn should allow drivers to follow each other more closely and encourage more overtaking.
F1 technical director Pat Symonds recently suggested that this year's machine will be anywhere between 0.5 and 5 seconds slower than their predecessors.
But Hulkenberg believes the new car won't necessarily be any slower than last year's contenders, while he isn't sure that running close to the car in front will be any easier.
"They aimed [for the car] to be a bit slower, more challenging to drive, to have more focus on drivers that can make a difference rather car performance and aerodynamics dominating," the German driver in a column he'll be writing this year for LinkedIn.
"From my initial experience however, the new cars are pretty damn fast and not necessarily slower than the last generation.
"The driving experience hasn't changed that much either, at least in the simulator. It will be very interesting to see whether these cars can really follow the car in front better.
"In the simulator, the cornering speeds are extremely high, so the risk of "dirty air" is still a given and it´s difficult for me to imagine that following another car comfortably at these speeds will be easy.
"Anyhow, I hope we will be positively surprised. Once pre-season testing starts, drivers and teams will find out how the cars really behave on track."
Looking ahead to how the team's will perform, Hulkenberg insists it's too early to make any bold predictions, but the former Renault driver isn't expecting F1's top teams to fall down the order.
"I'm also looking forward to see which team and driver gets off to the best start," he added.
"This is where the wheat will be separated from the chaff, and it's the guys who learn quickly, adapt quickly and adjust well to new conditions who will be right at the front initially.
"Later in the year, things can change because it will be a huge learning curve for everybody involved.
"The development race teams are in will move the order in such a long season. It`s too early for predictions although I would be very surprised if the top teams from previous years will not be near the front."