After 16 weeks without racing – an eternity for the sport's fans – the competitive roar of grand prix engines is soon to be heard once more, with the curtain-raising F1 2011 Australian Grand Prix due to fire into life in less than three weeks' time, and now's the moment to make your predictions about the action to come.
Of course, the season should have been revving into gear in Bahrain rather than Down Under, but that's another story – and in any case, Melbourne has always been an awesome place to get proceedings off to a flying start. Testing has offered some indications as to relative pace in the early pecking order, but this year more than ever thanks to the dramatic difference in tyre compounds brought to the table by the sport's new supplier Pirelli, it is nigh-on impossible to know just where each team stands.
What seems safe to assess for the time being is that defending double world champions Red Bull Racing again have the fastest car in the field, that Ferrari's 150° Italia – or whatever they have decided to call it this week, anyway – is metronomic in both its reliability and consistency and not far from the outright pace, either, and that McLaren-Mercedes still has much work to do in order to get on terms with its two arch-rivals.
Mercedes Grand Prix is another troubled front-runner, which is doubtless causing a few strained conversations in the 'Schumi' camp, whilst Lotus Renault GP may have lost its talisman driver in Robert Kubica, but the Enstone-based outfit has an extremely capable and dependable replacement in 'Quick' Nick Heidfeld and the innovative R31 has been the object of many an envious glance from other teams' drivers, designers and engineers during testing to-date.
Scuderia Toro Rosso's new baby appears to be a big step forward on the evidence seen so far, too – although whether the under-fire and under-pressure Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi will survive in the ejector seat long enough to be able to take advantage of it remains to be seen – and Team Lotus, similarly, looks primed to vault up the starting grid somewhat.
Williams is more of a mystery, with head-turning pace from Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello on occasion – but was that more of a tactical ruse as the multiple world champions' debut on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange neared..? Sauber look solid if unspectacular – as ever, it must be said – Virgin has been difficult to evaluate and as for HRT, well, best wait until the car hits the track before making any judgements, really, although many of the same issues from 2010 remain.
So there you have it. Can anybody defeat Red Bull this year? Can 'number two driver' Mark Webber turn the tables on reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel? Will Fernando Alonso continue to walk all over Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa? Can McLaren catch up quickly enough to salvage their season and Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button's title chances?
Is Michael Schumacher set for a second consecutive campaign of crushing disappointment? Can Heidfeld take up the mantle and lead Renault back to glory and to his own maiden grand prix victory? Will Kubica return?
So many questions, and as yet no answers, so feel free to have your say in our comments section below
, by musing over who or what are likely to be the greatest surprises of F1 2011 – and conversely, of course, the greatest disappointments... It's over to you!