Next year, today's Formula One cars will belong in a motor museum. They will look as old hat as Arnold Schwarzenegger up against Robert Patrick's liquid metal T-1000 in Terminator 2.
The engines – except they won't be called engines but power units – will be downsized from V8s to 1.6-litre V6 turbos. It doesn't sound at all bad, by the way.
The fuel will be measured meanly, as if by a parsimonious barman serving shorts, and use of Kers will give 161bhp a lap for 33 seconds instead of today's 80bhp a lap for 6.7 seconds. That means it's a must-have, instead of an optional extra, except it won't be called Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) any more but ERS (Energy Recovery Systems), which will combine kinetic energy from the rear axle and thermal energy from the exhaust via the turbocharger.
OK, enough technical gabble already. But this stuff is really important and to get your head around it, you could visit the Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth. Except they won't let you enter some areas unless you scrub up like a surgeon, and they will frisk you for recording devices, such as mobile phones, in case you decide to flog some technical info to their rivals.
It is possible to bang on about broader torque curves and traction limits until the Caterhams come home, but the point is Mercedes are hugely enthusiastic about 2014 and after three years back in Formula One without any significant returns they must improve on their record of one solitary win in that period compared with, say, McLaren's 18.
The bean counters at Mercedes's headquarters in Stuttgart might be starting to wonder if the £242m they spent in 2011 at Brackley and the engine division in Brixworth is a fair return on their investment .The suits may well note that 25% of that figure, £60m, was paid out to the team's 989 employees, understood to be the largest staff roster in F1. Spending on engines rose 54% to £116m, with a significant slice devoted to the research and development of the V6 powerplants.
Mercedes are likely to have spent similar amounts last year, again in continuing their engine push for next season but also developing the team's 2013 car in which Lewis Hamilton will make his debut in Australia on Sunday, 17 March.
Granted, they are already working on next year's power units at Ferrari and Renault, but Mercedes, a giant that has not been sleeping so much as in a deep coma in F1 terms, have even more incentive to get everything right for the new car this season.
But while everyone has been obsessing about what Mercedes and their star signing from McLaren might do in 2014, it has rather taken attention away from what the Silver Arrows could achieve this season. Aside from the signing of the British former world champion there has been movement at the top of the organisation, with Norbert Haug making way as head of motorsport for Toto Wolff, formerly of Williams. And with the Austrian's arrival, Ross Brawn is to make way as team principal with the arrival next season of the McLaren technical director, Paddy Lowe. It was only two months ago that Brawn defiantly stated: "I am the team principal and I am in charge", only to duck questions about his long-term future. "I hope I'm going to be a part of the team for a very long time," added Brawn.
For the time being Haug is giving little away, saying only: "I need some time to meet people, speak to them and get an overview, but I think what the team needs utmost is stability. We are coming up to a difficult season, a very important season for the team, so let's keep the ball flat at the moment and see how it develops."
Events did not bode well, however, in the first couple of days of testing in Barcelona. Brake failure at high speed saw Hamilton smash into the barriers at 180mph and with flames erupting from Nico Rosberg's car, Mercedes looked as accident prone as a circus clown's car. Since then, however, in Jerez and Barcelona once more, the Silver Arrows have been deeply impressive.
Mercedes now look capable of winning races, especially early on, though whether the team can match the level of in-season development of McLaren and Red Bull is another matter. Mercedes's inability to move along, perhaps hampered by their now banned double DRS system, was their biggest problem last year. But Hamilton can help here too. He is not the best when it comes to getting underneath the bonnet and taking a car to bits and putting it back together again, but development of the W04 is made easier for Brawn and his crew when a breathtakingly fast driver is pushing a grand prix car to its limits.
Hamilton is also making all the right noises, not heaping too much expectation on his engineers. "We exist to win and all the guys are working to win but we also have to be realistic and we don't know where we are," he said. "Other people are talking us up at the moment but who knows what we are going to do?
"I just know my place. I have come to a team who have struggled and who have not been able to compete with Red Bull, Ferrari or McLaren. So I cannot expect the team to make a massive leap, but if they do, then it will be spectacular. Mercedes will impress this year, whether it will be at the start or the end of the season, I don't know. But I really believe in this team and it has been growing the longer I have been with these guys. The more time I spend at the factory, the more I meet people, the more excited I get."
The merits of Hamilton's move from a winning McLaren to a struggling Mercedes have been regularly questioned, but after an encouraging testing his confidence is clearly growing. "I have been on a nice curve and going from strength to strength and making the right decisions. I have also been trying to keep myself out of trouble, which definitely helps, and I am happy with the decision I have made, and it is nice to drive a different car.
"It was more lucrative to stay where I was and a guarantee to be competitive as the car was evolving. There was a guarantee there whereas Mercedes have not won and they have not had that winning streak. The pressure comes from myself. I expect myself to win and I expect myself to achieve greatness. That is what I work hard for."
But if Mercedes do win races and even challenge for the championship this year, it will hardly help Lowe when he replaces Brawn at Brackley. Brawn's strategic and organisational skills will be indispensable next year with all the changes. His position has been made more comfortable by Wolff's efforts to avoid a head-on crash between his team principal and Mercedes's non-executive chairman, the three-times world champion Niki Lauda. A strong 2013 will strengthen his case even more. But it will not make life simple for Lowe when he arrives at the end of the year. Mercedes are already a team with considerably more chiefs than Indians.
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image: © David Wall