The new Formula One season is up and running with Sebastian Vettel striking the early blow.
Vettel made the most of a fortunate safety car period, to deny Lewis Hamilton the opening win of the year in Australia.
The race may not go down as a thriller, but there were plenty of things to learn about how the year ahead may shake out…
Mercedes have a fight on their hands
Pre-season testing hinted that Ferrari and Red Bull had closed the gap to all-conquering Mercedes.
The opening race in Melbourne didn’t allow a true fight between the three teams, but Ferrari were close enough to take advantage when the safety car came out.
Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race too, which should give fans plenty of hope for the year ahead.
Power advantage could be crucial
However, Mercedes’ qualifying form could still prove decisive.
While Ferrari could match Mercedes on race pace last year, the Scuderia could only secure five of the 20 pole positions on offer. The German squad took the other 15.
As for Red Bull, they’ve scored just one pole in the turbo era.
Hamilton claimed pole by 0.7 seconds in Australia, and it’s believed that the Silver Arrows again have a specific qualifying mode to boost their engine power.
With overtaking again set to prove difficult this season, Hamilton’s success on Saturdays could have a big say in the championship.
Haas mean business third time around
The standout performance of the weekend came from the American Haas squad.
Eyebrows were raised after Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen posted some handy times in testing, in a car that manner regard as being eerily similar to last year’s Ferrari.
But they were comfortably best of the rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in Australia, and only a wheel-gun issue denied them a huge haul of points.
McLaren and Alonso are on the right track
After a disastrous three years with Honda, McLaren look to have turned a corner with Renault.
Fernando Alonso came home fifth in Melbourne, and the initial signs are that the MCL33 is a handy midfield runner.
With both McLaren and Renault noted for their development skills however, don’t be surprised if Alonso can start moving up the grid even more as the season progresses.
Trouble ahead for Williams and Force India
British-based duo Williams and Force India have endured a great time of things since the turbo era began in 2014.
The two sides have punched above their weight, largely thanks to an alliance with Mercedes power.
But now that Renault, McLaren and Haas look to have stepped things up a notch, both Williams and Force India could be in for a difficult 2018.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication