A preview of what the Grand Prix season will have to offer seems more comprehensive after the first official race rather than inconclusive test sessions.
But before all five red lights illuminate in Melbourne a few noteworthy happenings.
Pirelli introduce yet another compound to the mix to intensify the spectacle. A Spanish team disappears off the grid. Lewis Hamilton’s departure from McLaren seems like a family divorce. And Ferrari pray hard for a new Pope!
The debutants this year seem remarkable. For their exotic names at least. Esteban Gutierrez is Sauber’s new find. Valtteri Bottas is William’s new Finn. Jules Bianchi is Marussia’s new Ferrari-contracted pilot. Max Chilton the new Brit on the grid is his teammate. And finally Giedo van de Garde fills-in Caterham number two.
The story so far though has been about Red Bull Racing. Can they do it again? Can they take title number 4 on the trot? And after a delayed Qualifying session in a wet Albert Park, punters all around began to believe they can. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber sealed out the front row of the grid! Grey clouds hung all over Melbourne for spectators and rival teams alike. ‘Baby Schumi’ might just run away with it before the rest even get to grips with the new coloured tyre options.
Watching the German in slow-motion-replays, power-sliding through his hot Qualifying lap might have been agonizing for teams like McLaren and Ferrari. Not only were they unsure of their own pace, there were threatening performances from Mercedes and Lotus as well.
And no one considered Force India.
On Sunday though, 58 laps were done in 1hr:30m:03.225s to complete the first full race distance of 2013.
And we had a cool, calm, somewhat excited Finn taking the top step of the podium. For the 20th time in his career. And for the 21st consecutive time in the points since March 2012. It was what the Grand Prix fraternity would call a solid drive. Kimi Raikkonen took no prisoners. And to rub it in further, he posted a sizzling 1m:29s fastest lap on the ultimate tour of Melbourne’s scenic circuit!
Fernando Alonso took the fight to the Lotus till the last couple of laps, and when he realized there was nothing he could do for the win he cruised home to collect a healthy haul of points for second place. This is what the Spaniard is famous for. These drives make him a genuine title contender till the end. Defending champion Vettel was gracious in defeat. He accepted that ‘Hungry Heidi’ didn't have the measure of Kimi’s new Burn emblazoned Lotus. But he was happy too, with P3.
Felipe Massa lost sight of his teammate somewhere in the strategy battles though he did out-qualify him convincingly. Hamilton found P5 for Mercedes somewhere in between his new tweeting, status-updating, tattooed pop-star-for-the-people image. A gutsy drive from the McLaren runaway kid.
And with McLaren finishing P9 and P12, maybe running away was a good idea for Lewis. McLaren seem to be in the doldrums with new boy Sergio Perez finding his maiden outing a tougher one than his debut with Sauber. Force India’s comeback star, Adrian Sutil led the grand prix twice before holding off teammate Paul Di Resta for P7 and P8. A superb performance from the Silverstone team that might just turn out to be the dark horse this season.
But we leave Australia with images of Kimi, Fernando and Sebastian. Smiling and waving to the passionate crowd. Drenched in Mumm.
Behind them right now, are two determined Brits. One in a slow McLaren and the other in a fast Mercedes. They’re all champions and they're all damn fast. These guys are tough and focused. They race to win.
Most importantly they're all in different teams - Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and Mclaren. All capable of winning. And that I reckon is the birth of a super era for Formula One.