Seasoned observers have wanted to see how the Finn would fare in class-leading machinery for some time. He’s ticked every box except race wins at Williams, has the same relentless pace as was the case with a young Fernando Alonso in his Renault years (and some would argue still now), the only thing left to prove is whether he can deliver in a world-beating car.
If the Mercedes is as good as its predecessors, and the signs are that it will at least hold its own, then Bottas will win races. One of the stories of the season will be how this affects Hamilton’s occasionally sensitive mental equilibrium, and whether the Finn’s unemotional approach on the surface might begin to undermine Lewis’s campaign.
3. Has Ferrari really caught up?
It’s not the first time that Ferrari has won the winter testing war. Kimi Raikkonen ended the two four-day tests at Barcelona with the fastest time – a 1m18.634s - in the new SF70H. More ominous was the car’s medium-to-high speed cornering stability and consistency. That, along with the complementary comments from rival drivers and teams suggests that Ferrari might have a real contender on its hands.
Räikkönen had the upper hand on Sebastian Vettel for some of last year, but given a sniff at a title the German will be bang in the fight. That being said, Mercedes have never gone for headlines in testing and will have a more forceful approach to the timesheets this weekend. The jury remains out on Red Bull, but one suspects they are closer than they appear in the mirrors of the top two teams on pre-season paper.
4. Fascinating line-ups:
It’s been a little-mentioned fact that every single team on the grid this year has at least one genuine talisman. If you consider the top three teams as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, then five of their six drivers have won grands prix, three are world champions, and the other three are at least strong contenders to become one… The midfield is hardly less stellar. You have Lance Stroll (the reigning European F3 champion) alongside a former world championship runner-up in Felipe Massa at Williams. Double-world champion Fernando Alonso partners with super-rookie Stoffel Vandorne at McLaren and highly-rated Le Mans winner Nico Hülkenberg at Renault as team-mate to GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer.