In theory, the one roadblock is the restored challenge of Ferrari. The Italians’ performance during winter testing, where they comfortably outstripped the field, suggested they had turned a corner under the aegis of Mattia Binotto, the highly-rated technical director promoted to replace Maurizio Arrivabene, an out-of-his-depth marketing man. But Mercedes have served notice in Australia that they are not ceding their crown easily. With a sixth consecutive constructors’ title, the Silver Arrows would match a streak only previously achieved by their great rivals in Maranello.
Perhaps F1 would be wise, though, not to pin its hopes for 2019 solely on a straight duel between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, his erstwhile adversary at Ferrari. For a start, Max Verstappen, the Dutch wunderkind, is primed to gatecrash the party, having curbed his more reckless overtaking instincts and adapted quickly to Red Bull’s Honda engines, so far proving more reliable than the old Renault power unit. Then, there is the addition of Charles Leclerc, Vettel’s young team-mate from Monaco. Already, Leclerc looks as capable behind the wheel of a Ferrari as he does with his languages, when he switches effortlessly in press conferences between French, English and Italian.