Ferrari have made 2017 interesting.
The first five races have all had intrigue and uncertainty surrounding them, and even if not all have been harum-scarum humdingers they’ve all been much more than watchable.
In 2016, the debate was all about which Mercedes of recently-retired World Drivers’ Champion Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton would win the race.
Now though, and especially with Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari have altered that equation somewhat.
With more luck, Vettel could have had four wins from the opening five races.
As it is, the reinvigorated German has had to settle for two, and three second places in a relentless start to 2017, while Hamilton hasn’t had it all his own way with Valtteri Bottas as teammate.
Mercedes had come to Spain more bullish about their chances of victory after a raft of major upgrades including a new sidepod design and front wing, and indeed that ended up being justified.
Ferrari had also brought upgrades but the consensus is that the Scuderia had made fewer changes than the Silver Arrows.
Many will argue that Mercedes’ victory came only because of a Virtual Safety Car thrown to recover the stricken Stoffel Vandoorne from the outside of the first corner, not as a result of pure pace.
Mercedes worked the strategy well and while Vettel manfully held out, using his elbows on pit exit, it was only going to be a matter of time before Hamilton, on faster tyres, breezed past.
That he didn’t drive away was telling.
Vettel had half a chance until, and not for the first time this season, he found the Williams of Felipe Massa parked in an awkward place at Turn 10 with five laps left.
The race was on a knife-edge until the end, and proved that Ferrari’s early season form was no flash in the pan.
Six points separate Vettel and Hamilton at the top of the standings in the four-time champion’s favour.
With Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen keeping their respective teammates more than honest, 2017 is shaping up to be the closest season in five years.
Let the battle commence.
Jack Prentice @JPrentice8