The halcyon episodes of Formula One at is rip-roaring and nail-biting best are all set for a thriller of a reprise in a season already bursting with promise.
The indications, as rock solid as can be, are graphically clear as, principally, two teams, Mercedes and Ferrari, and their two gifted superstar drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, both multi-champions, revel in revitalised endeavours of rich inter-dependence.
And the timing could not be more apposite as Monaco, the showcase of all grands prix, looms to stage what should be a spectacular, wheel-to-wheel confrontation to follow the awesome twosome’s last thriller of an outing in Spain, the towering highlight of the new campaign so far.
Both men ... I know, are feeling they are fast approaching the peak of their ability, Vettel with the backing of a reawakened Ferrari to tackle the supremely established Mercedes of Hamilton, currently one and two in the championship.
The intriguing proof of whomsoever is the better driver is unfolding as if it is the subject of a carefully scripted Hollywood drama with no obvious finale.
And it is all welcomingly shaping up as a season as memorable as those featuring legends Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, never friends, always enemies, and crowd-pullers of immense attraction. It means the title takeover, as evidenced by the Mercedes powerbrokers, and under the steerage of Hamilton and last year’s champion Nico Rosberg, now retired, is no longer a foregone yawn-inducing conclusion. The German supremacy is over. It is no longer a Mercedes monopoly.
The tension among the brainboxes and engineering wizards behind the scenes back at the various headquarters is knife-edge and the call upon the expertise and commitment, with its endless late hours, is a tribute to the intensity of the competition.
Monaco’s tight and twisty track with its threat of steel walls and rationed overtaking opportunities, except for the bravest of the brave and bold — and that means Hamilton and Vettel — has rarely failed to give full value for money for the 100,000 or so enthusiasts packed around its 2.04mile track for 78 laps of sheer magic.
“And it will be the same again this time out,” says Hamilton, twice a winner, twice second and with a third place, “we are both. Seb and me, up for it. It should be a real classic. Monaco is a fantastic circuit, a challenge of massive proportion.”
Vettel, a winner once and second three times in Monaco, goes on: “This is developing into an absolute classic of a season and it is only going to get better and more exciting. And I can envisage it turning into a really memorable championship fight between me and Lewis. Monaco will be a real test for the both of us.”
Both drivers hurried back to their respective HQ to spend patient hours in their mock-up racers concentrating on eyeing a screen of the track in the build-up and they will each walk and ride the up-hill-down-dale circuit to ensure the race’s 161.734 mile challenge does not leave them ignorant of one metre of the problematical confrontation.
If there was ever any doubt that the cars for this series are anywhere near as easy to handle as over the last couple of seasons, the clearest of answers came with the super-fit Hamilton’s difficulty in controlling his breathing as, with painstakingly newly worked-on strength and stamina build-ups, he muscled the Mercedes around the Spanish track to that thoroughly convincing victory to narrow the Vettel championship lead to six points.
“We had a really close battle, I felt I had to be at my best,” said a relieved Hamilton after the race.
“it was aggressive and challenging, close fought, and it will be the same, I am sure in Monaco. I know we are both looking forward to it.”
Provided there is not the freakiest of interventions or a careless lapse of concentration and attention with, say a lapped driver blocking an overtaking by one of the star turns, the show on Sunday week is all set to make Monaco memorable. More than it has been for some time.
This Hamilton-Vettel duel could go down to the last corner of the last lap of the last grand prix in Abu Dhabi in late November making it a memorable climax ...