Lewis Hamilton has a new team-mate this year after Nico Rosberg decided the only way was down following his title win in 2016.
The latest man set the task of competing with the fastest driver in the world is Finland’s Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff prised the 27-year-old out of Williams – at the cost of a lot of money among other things – because he saw him as the closest he could get to a like-for-like replacement for Rosberg.
That means someone quick enough to keep Hamilton on his toes, and a team player who will not rock the boat.
But three years alongside Felipe Massa at Williams have proved little about Bottas’ ultimate ability to compete at the very top of F1.
Bottas comfortably beat the Brazilian – but his superiority over Massa was nowhere near as great as was Alonso’s when they were team-mates at Ferrari. Which doesn’t necessarily tell you anything, but might.
So will Bottas be another Rosberg – quick and dependable, talented enough to run Hamilton close but only good enough to beat him occasionally? Or another Heikki Kovalainen, Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate in 2008 and 2009 – decently talented but hardly ever anywhere near Hamilton’s level? Or better than both of them?
If he’s Rosberg, things at Mercedes will continue much as they have for the last few years – and Bottas will almost certainly be retained for 2018.
If he’s Kovalainen, the atmosphere in the team will be a lot more comfortable than it has been, but Mercedes might find Hamilton even more ‘superstar-y’ than he can already be from time to time – and Wolff will be looking for a new driver.
And if he’s better than both, things could get really interesting, really quickly.