The cards are now firmly on the table. There is nowhere to hide, no sandbagging to do, no”BS”, no glory runs, and no heavy fuel loads. Everyone now knows exactly where they stand, and that seems to be roughly where they stood at the end of last season. That’s right, Lewis Hamilton fans, Mercedes F1 Team are categorically in a different league. Still! Seven tenths is a gap to your nearest rivals, a big gap. The fact that Valtteri Bottas was nearly only a tenth behind Lewis Hamilton also suggests that they’re getting the most out of their formula one car around Albert Park. So what does that mean for the rest of the season? well, championships are not won on Saturday’s, so lets take a look.
At the back end of last season, only one man outscored Lewis Hamilton, and that was the rapidly maturing Max Verstappen. Watch the body-language in the post-race cool-down room from Brazil, after Esteban Ocon took out Max Verstappen, and it is very clear that Lewis knows that this is his heir-apparent. He is doing him no favours, cutting him no slack, and making sure everyone knows who’s boss. Young Max should take this apparent aloofness as a ringing endorsement of the weapons at his disposal. And today those weapons shone through again. He lines up second on the grid, only a tenth behind Sebastian Vettel, but with a drive-train with a lot more potential than either the Ferrari or the Mercedes. Could this be a breakthrough year? I suspect not. What I do suspect is that this could be a lot like the 2009 Formula One season where the Brawn F1 car romped off in the early rounds, only to be overtaken by a Red Bull that went on to win the next four seasons.