The wait has been arduous since the Supercars championship last turned a wheel in anger at the Townsville SuperSprint in July, with the COVID-19 pandemic having halted the series due to states and territories locking down in response to outbreaks.
The status quo continued in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix as Mercedes locked out the front row.
At least it’s close between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the fight for pole with the two separated by just 0.059 seconds today. Hamilton lines up on pole with Bottas alongside and Max Verstappen starting in third.
At the other end of the grid, we find the usual suspects of Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams.
However, it was a good afternoon for Kimi Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo as the Finn got into Q2 for the first time this season. Raikkonen continued to show good pace in Q2 and will start in 14th tomorrow.
Promising signs for Alfa while the promising signs at Williams were nowhere to be seen as George Russell’s streak of four consecutive Q2 appearances came to an end. He still out-qualified his teammate Nicholas Latifi to maintain his record of never being out-qualified by a teammate in his F1 career.
Q2 was agonising for Sebastian Vettel, who missed out on a place in Q3 by just 0.002 seconds. This difficult spell for the four-time world champion continues with Vettel starting in 11th position for the third time this season.
Vettel was 0.215 seconds slower than his teammate Charles Leclerc in Q2. Considering that Leclerc was only able to qualify in ninth, I think the difference in lap times between the Ferrari drivers is more down to a pace advantage that Leclerc already had over his teammate going into this season.
Both drivers are trying their hardest to make the most of a bad situation and that’s what they’ll do in what will be a challenging race for them tomorrow.
The Racing Points are strong again, with Sergio Perez starting fourth on his return to F1 and Lance Stroll starting fifth.
Tomorrow’s race looks set to be dominated by strategy. Some teams will go for the one-stop while others will go for the two-stop.
It may be an evolving situation depending on how the tyres perform on the day. Tyre management will be the name of the game.
Don’t let any hype-generators fool you, Max Verstappen will not be a championship contender so long as Mercedes have a better package than Red Bull. Mercedes should be expected to bring home the bacon.
The Spanish Grand Prix has a reputation for not being the most thrilling race of the season but there will still be plenty of talking points regardless. The race starts at 11:10 pm AEST.