Formula 1's 2017 cars are set to miss the target of delivering a five-second per lap improvement, and may even produce hardly any gain at low-downforce tracks like Monza, reckons Williams tech chief Pat Symonds.
As teams continue to prepare their cars for the major rules shake-up that is coming for next year, Symonds has said that talk of F1 cars being so fast that drivers may struggle to manage them is wide of the mark.
Instead, he suggests the lap times will be similar to what drivers experienced around a decade ago – so only a few seconds quicker than now.
"They have driven cars like this before and it is nothing we didn't have around 2004/2005," said Symonds.
"To give you an example, a typical 200km/h corner is going to go up by 30-35km/h. It adds a G to it. It is going to be a bit more physical but it is not mind-blowing, I think.
"The performance is getting more like the mid-2000 cars, but not really there. You remember the target was five seconds per lap? I am not sure we will achieve that.
"We have the big unknown with the tyres, of course, we really don't know where we are there. But making some sensible assumptions with the tyres, I think we will see more like the four-second mark.
"At places like Barcelona, where this type of car will be quite performant, it will be more than that, but some places - like Monza, for example, where you will be taking a lot of downforce off because you have more drag from the wider tyres - I don't think we will see much difference in laptime at a track like that."
Symonds says progress on making the 2017 cars has been partly limited by the fact that teams only got hold of wind tunnel tyres in February this year, which has restricted development time.
"We only got the windtunnel tyres at the end of February, so it has been quite a short gestation period compared to the 2009 cars," he said. "I think we were working on the 2009 cars a lot longer.
"Plus, the big difference in 2009 was that we were running wind tunnels 24/7, and Toyota were running two wind tunnels 24/7. Now every single team, whether you are Haas or Manor or Mercedes, you do 65 runs a week.
"That does make things a little bit different to 2009. It also means that if someone has made a breakthrough it is harder to catch up."
While there are hopes that the 2017 aero overhaul will shake up the order in F1, Symonds says anyone wishing that the field will be closer will be disappointed.
"You get convergence in time," he said. "The classic example of that is the power unit. The power unit working group said don't mess around trying to get convergence, it will happen naturally by 2017 and I think they are right. By 2017 there is not going to be much between the engines.
"The same is true of the chassis. You do get this convergence, probably not quite as marked as on the engines, so when you change the regulation, it is likely that things will move apart.
"The last reasonable change we had from 2013/2014, at Williams it was good for us because we and a few others teams were really struggling with understanding the blown diffusers with the coanda-type exhausts.
"Teams were struggling with that, but it went away and there was a bit of equalisation – and re-ordering, if you like, then. So it can certainly change the order but it won't necessarily bring things together – time brings things together."