On Monday Lotus launched their new E21, the car with which they will compete in the 2013 Formula One Championship.
This means the 2013 season is now within view, and it’s already looking like being a worthy follow-up to the pulsating 2012 season with new construction Pirelli tyres, big new driver line-ups and the promise of an even closer season due to stable rules.
The stories attracting most of the news have of course been the driver changes at the big teams, McLaren and Mercedes.
The move of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes has been covered in the blog in depth but the move of the young, charging Sergio Perez to McLaren also raises many interesting questions.
Perez’s move is a divisive one, with two mainstream opinions on his prospects. One view holds that the Mexican has only shown speed at three events in 2012 and that these were founded on a lucky tyre strategy obtained by under-achieving in qualifying and therefore being allowed to start on the prime tyre.
His mistake-prone tail-end of the season adds weight to this view as does the fact he only finished six points ahead of team-mate, Kamui Kobayashi, who is now without a drive at all.
The other view however, is much more positive. This holds that the speed shown with those three podiums at Montreal, Monza and Malaysia was so strong that Perez is a potential world champions worthy of a chance with a big team.
They claim his mistakes are just a common occurrence for a 22 year old with only two seasons experience in decent cars, and that Perez has a talent that can be honed to world champion status.
Whichever view turns out true is obviously unknown until the season starts, and it will definitely be an intriguing subplot to the season.
Pirelli is also preparing new and what they claim are improved tyres for the season ahead. They have a softer compound along with stiffer sidewalls which Pirelli claim will combine to offer better racing without the unpredictability that the teams and some fans thought went too far at the beginning of last season.
Pirelli are aiming for 2-3 pitstops per race to answer the criticism which arose after a run of average one stop races at the tail end of 2012.
It will also be interesting to see if Ferrari has managed to fix the problems in their aerodynamics department which have afflicted their past four seasons. If they indeed have, and Felipe Massa continues his strong form he showed at the end of 2012, then Maranello could offer a strong, dual title challenge with arguably the strongest driver pairing on the grid.
The final piece of the 2013 jigsaw is the prospect of the midfield teams closing in on taking outright Grand Prix victories. In 2012 the grid tightened up with six teams managing to win a race, while Sauber came tantalisingly close a couple of times.
If Sauber can add to the considerable strengths of their last car, their highly talented new lead driver, Nico Hulkenberg, may just shine and take a win or two.
Pre-season testing begins on February 5, the teams are starting to launch their cars and the ingredients are already there for another epic season.