McLaren-Honda technical director Tim Goss says 2017’s sweeping regulation changes are “likely” to change Formula One’s pecking order.
This year will see the introduction of wider, faster cars with laptime gains of up to five seconds expected.
While the 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged power units remain, other areas - such as aerodynamics and tyres - will be radically different.
“Let’s be clear, we’re looking at some huge regulatory changes ahead of the 2017 season,” Goss told McLaren’s official website.
“We’ve had bigger changes in the past – the change between 1982 and ’83 from ground-effect to flat floors, for example, which had a massive impact on performance. But this season’s changes rank as some of the most significant we’ve ever had in the sport.
“These 2017 cars are lower and squatter; they just look meaner. The lower rear-wing, big fat tyres and big diffuser look cool – they look mean. But for the engineering department, the changes to the aerodynamic and tyre regulations are the two most challenging areas to tackle.
“That’s likely to change the competition order – because it’s such a big disturbance. Historically, that has changed the order – but then what normally happens is that the best, and most well-equipped, teams tend to rise to the top again.”
Since the introduction of the current breed of engines in 2014, Mercedes has been steamrolling the field and racked up 51 wins out of 59 grands prix over the past three seasons.
Meanwhile, McLaren has not tasted victory since a Jenson Button success at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Woking-based outfit has also been hamstrung by its underpowered Honda engine since 2015, though significant progress was made last year.