Not since 2006, at the height of the tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin, have the four cylindrical pieces of rubber bolted onto an F1 car been the main talking-point of the paddock and the watching media throughout a race weekend.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps, and it is easy to suggest that a return to those days would be good for the sport.
But there were plenty of people back then who became weary of watching races where the performance of a car was determined more by its choice of tyre-company than the skill of its driver or the expertise of its aerodynamicists, and there were many who clamoured for a move to a control tyre.
But there are those, myself included, who believe that F1 is fundamentally improved by variety; be it in chassis design, engine manufacturers, or indeed tyre makes.
Competition is contagious, and it breeds speed, ingenuity, and progress. These are the qualities that enable the sport to attract millions of fans across the world, and are the markers for its superiority when compared to other forms of racing. They should therefore always be at the cornerstone of the technical regulations.
Successful law-making is about striking the correct balance between order and freedom, and in F1 it becomes a balance between entertainment and sporting values.
Admittedly, the scales were skewed from 2002-2006, when Bridgestone was able to work closely with Ferrari
to build a succession of deadly tyre and chassis combinations to the delight of the tifosi
, but the detriment of everyone else. Yet, today the balance is off too, as we see a Formula that now preaches nurture rather than punishment, protection rather than attack, and endurance rather than sprint.
The lap record around Shanghai is 1min 32.238secs, a time set by Michael Schumacher in the heady days that resulted from the particular nature of the 2004 rule-set. The fastest lap on Sunday was set by Sebastian Vettel, a 1min 36.808secs, four and half seconds down on his compatriot despite nine years of technological development. And that time was set during the Red Bull
driver's near-qualifying run towards the end of the race, with the average bests of the other top cars firmly in the 1min 39secs.
Schumacher's time was set in an era of refuelling, but even so, four and a half seconds is too big-a-gap for a sport that is supposed to pride itself on unsurpassed speed.