Will the Red Bull vs. Mercedes championship battle last?
If the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix is anything to go by, then Formula 1 could finally have the campaign it has long craved. Lewis Hamilton versus Max Verstappen. Mercedes versus Red Bull. Bring it on!
Over the past seven years of Mercedes domination of F1 in the current turbo-hybrid era, on occasions we have been teased by the prospect of a gloves-off, no-holds-barred battle royal to the wire, only to be left deflated as Mercedes and Hamilton eventually strolled away to the titles.
The 2017 season was one of those when Sebastian Vettel held a 14-point cushion going into the August summer break but was then steamrollered by Hamilton upon the season's resumption as the Briton claimed 143 points from a possible 150 in the six races that followed.
The following year we witnessed similar as both Vettel and Ferrari led the drivers' and constructors' standings after 10 of the 21 rounds, and then came a defining moment in the season and the German's career when he crashed out while leading his home race. Hamilton went on to claim a victory that sparked another blitz of wins, while Vettel has never been the same driver since.
Yes, we had 2016 and the intense intra-team rivalry between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that kept us captivated all the way to the bitter end, with the German driver emerging triumphant and then almost immediately calling it a day as he had achieved all he had set to do.
The feud had also taken its toll as Rosberg determined he lacked the energy for another season-long battle with Hamilton.
Whilst there is something to be said for a one-team, two-car fight, and there have been some classics over the years, F1 seasons truly come alive when there are at least two teams involved in a championship scrap.
Could this be the year? The early signs are promising as Red Bull, which has been notorious over the years for being slow-starters, for once have come flying out of the traps after developing a car to challenge Mercedes across a record-breaking 23-race campaign.
In the opposite corner, Mercedes has been severely affected by the introduction for this season of new aerodynamic regulations designed to improve safety as the downforce the teams were applying to their cars had become too powerful for Pirelli's tyres to cope with.
The main change has been to the floor in front of the rear tyres, compromising Mercedes' low-rake design – and that of Aston Martin which sports the same philosophy – compared to the high-rake runners such as Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.
Hamilton went so far as to suggest it was "no secret" the changes had been deliberately introduced "to peg us back".
F1 and the FIA would no doubt counter such an argument, but whatever the reason, we have at least the kind of confrontation even Hamilton claimed he was looking forward to, perhaps unsurprising given he has had it all his own way for far too long.
All sportsmen need to have a fire lit under them, particularly when they dominate their sport, and certainly to the extent Hamilton has in recent years. Once it starts to become too easy the incentive begins to fade.
You could sense that after what unfolded in Bahrain Hamilton's passion was burning again as he won a race that arguably he had no right to.
It was clear after qualifying Red Bull and Verstappen had the faster car. Yes, Mercedes had made gains in between the three-day pre-season test at the same circuit that had concluded 13 days previously and that hour-long session, but not to the extent they would have wished or hoped for.
The gap between Verstappen and Hamilton on the front row was almost four-tenths of a second. On true pace alone, rarely seen over the past seven years.
Yet Red Bull and Verstappen were undone by a tactical masterclass from Mercedes that was executed to perfection as Hamilton produced one of the finest drives of his career.
There will be those who will argue that the 36-year-old British driver exceeded track limits on 29 occasions at turn four, but in truth, he was operating within the event notes of FIA race director Michael Masi until it was eventually deemed he had transgressed once too often.
And it was then at that now infamous turn four where Verstappen exceeded track limits himself in passing Hamilton to gain the lead on lap 53 of 56, but in doing so "gained a lasting advantage", again as per Masi's notes, and was forced to immediately cede the place back.
The fact he was unable to mount another attack over the closing three laps was due to the fact the attacking nature of his hard tyres had eventually fallen away, even though they were 11 laps fresher than those on Hamilton's car.
As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way, and Mercedes and Hamilton discovered that. In doing so, we are again left rubbing our hands in expectation at what might be to come over the remaining 22 races.
After what was his 96th career victory, Hamilton claimed that what had just unfolded was "something that all the fans have wanted for a long time".
Of course, he also recognised the fact it was just "one race", adding: "We don’t know what the future holds in terms of the pace they [Red Bull] have. They could be ahead a lot more. But we’re going to work as hard as we can to try and stay close in this battle and I hope for many more of these sorts of races."
As fans, we can only hope that what we witnessed in Bahrain was merely a mouth-watering appetiser to a season-long feast of a fight between two great drivers and two great teams.