Nico Hulkenberg believes the new generation of Formula 1 cars will still be “pretty damn fast” and queried whether it will be easier to follow another driver.
Hulkenberg has not raced in Formula 1 full-time since 2019, with his final start coming as a stand-in at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix, but spent 2021 as Aston Martin’s reserve driver.
Formula 1 is introducing overhauled technical regulations this year aimed at producing closer and more exciting racing, with the anticipation that the effect of the dirty air reduced.
It led to expectations that the new generation of cars will be slower than their direct predecessors but Hulkenberg doubts this will actually be the case.
“They aimed [the car] to be a bit slower, more challenging to drive, to have more focus on drivers that can make a difference rather [than having] car performance and aerodynamics dominate,” said Hulkenberg, writing on 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 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 positively surprised. Once pre-season testing starts drivers and teams will find out how the cars really behave on track.”
Hulkenberg, who spent the majority of his decade-long career with midfield teams, is not expecting the pecking order to significantly change in 2022.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing which teams and drivers get off to the best start,” he said.
“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.”