F1 heads into a new era in 2022 with the introduction of a completely new ruleset, meaning the form book from previous years could be torn up.
With 2021 the first year of financial restrictions being placed on teams, some of the outfits that had a less competitive car chose to focus all their resources on the 2022 regulation overhaul.
As a result, RacingNews365.com F1 journalist Dieter Rencken believes that the pecking order could be vastly different.
"Absolutely, I do," Rencken said on the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com F1 Podcast.
"I believe that Ferrari, for example, did almost zero development on their 2021 car last year – they knew that it wasn't up to scratch.
"They said, 'Well, why keep throwing good money and good time after it when it's not really going to make any difference? Let us concentrate on 2022' – they could steal a march.
"Fundamentally, we could have somebody like Haas, if their chief designer has found some secret which unlocks an extra amount of downforce or whatever – they could steal a march. They could very well be running in the podium positions.
"We've had it before, we've changed regulations and suddenly a backmarker team is suddenly a front-runner."
Could the likes of McLaren rise to the fore?
Asked whether a surprise team could move close to the lead battle, joining the expected top trio of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, Rencken said that developments in Woking in recent years can't be ignored.
"I reckon McLaren, actually," he commented, pondering which teams might emerge as challengers.
"I rate James Key [Technical Director] very highly. He's done a lot of work on it. I've spoken to James a lot about the 2022 car.
"They do have the Mercedes engine which, even if the engines are all frozen, they do have an engine which is proven to be up there.
"So I believe that we could be looking at McLaren being a really strong front-runner. And could they take the championship? I think they could certainly be in the mix up there."
Might 'El Plan' pay dividends for Alpine?
Fellow RacingNews365.com F1 journalist Mike Seymour thinks that 'Team Enstone' could complete their return to the sharp end of the F1 grid, following Renault's comeback as a manufacturer seven years ago.
"You would expect the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari with their resources and history to produce solid challengers at the very least," he said.
"The budget cap is an interesting element. Think back to the 2009 rule changes and the troubles that McLaren were in at the start of the season, and they pretty much spent their way out of it throughout the year and returned to a race-winning team.
"I think it's going to be different now. Teams have got to keep an eye on the money and what they're spending, how they're spending it.
"But one name that keeps coming to mind for me is Alpine. I'm really intrigued by Alpine. You think of their title-winning days through various guises, and it's another big rules reset.
"There's been quite a lot of momentum with them in terms of the progress they've been quietly making. You've got the likes of Fernando Alonso as a proven World Champion, [while] Esteban Ocon is an extremely highly-rated youngster, and they seem to be working well – they're constantly talking about 'El Plan'!
"I've just got a feeling about Alpine this year, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out."
Listen to the full episode of the RacingNews365.com F1 Podcast below!
F1 Podcast: Why F1 2022 could be the most exciting season ever
With huge changes being made to the F1 rule book for 2022, our journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look ahead to the new season.