David Coulthard says he has no concerns about Red Bull Racing launching their 2009 car later than most rivals, and thinks the extra time finalising the design will make them more competitive.
The majority of Formula One teams will begin testing their 2009 challengers in the next ten days, with Ferrari kicking off the 'launch season' at Mugello tomorrow, but Red Bull's new car won't be seen until 9 February.
Coulthard, who will continue to work with Red Bull this season after retiring from driving duties, thinks it will be more beneficial for designer Adrian Newey to spend more time on the car than for RBR to be out testing with their rivals.
"In terms of Adrian's decision to work longer in the design process before committing to manufacturing, if you have a quick car and it can be made reliable then it doesn't matter how early you have it out in testing," said Coulthard at the Autosport International Show.
"My view is that you find out where you are with your mechanical package in terms of springs, ride heights and what-have-you fairly quickly. And very rarely does changing a spring package make the car go significantly quicker.
"You might optimise it for that track on that day, but the headline elements to make a grand prix car go quickly are driver confidence - because there's no question that when you're confident that unleashes lap time performance - aerodynamic load and efficiency is a key area, and making the tyres work.
"So if the car comes out having used the extra time to develop further and it performs, I think this could be a very strong year for the Red Bull Racing team."
He also believes that Red Bull will benefit from the FIA's decision to re-equalise engine performance, having been adamant that the main reason Toro Rosso beat the senior RBR team in late 2008 was because STR's Ferrari V8 was superior to Red Bull's Renault unit.
"Towards the end of last season Toro Rosso were able to out-perform Red Bull Racing in many cases, but I think the fact that there's been a publicly acknowledged upgrade to the Renault engine by the FIA and accepted by the other manufacturers completely confirms what we were saying - that there were some differences," said Coulthard.
"During the year when we asked the question that we think there might be some differences in engine performance, people might see that as an excuse. You now know it wasn't an excuse because it's been validated as a necessary change going into 2009."
Coulthard doesn't expect the major regulation changes to completely shake up the order this season, but he thinks the field could become even more competitive.
"The bottom line is that you would be brave to bet against the usual suspects setting the pace, but I think there is an opportunity for Formula One to be a lot closer this year," he said.
"Even your classic back of the grid teams like Force India, now with their McLaren package, why would you not reasonably expect them to be capable of finishing in the top six and maybe getting podiums?"