Whisper it, but it looks like we have a race on our hands in the 2017 edition of Formula One. Sebastian Vettel's victory at Melbourne in the opening race of the season last weekend suggested that Ferrari have produced a car that is capable of loosening the Mercedes stronghold on the sport.
We shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves just yet; the opening race of the season can sometimes throw up freak results and strong early performances from teams, only for them to drop off as the season gets underway. We'll have a better indication of where Ferrari and Red Bull will be by the time we reach Europe in late May, but for know, there's cause for optimism.
The positivity is seemingly extending to the paddock and world of sponsorship too. Call it the Liberty Effect. Ever since the US-based media giant completed a takeover of F1 last year, excitement has grown at what the new owners could deliver to the sport; online streaming and better social media presence; a return to European 'heritage' tracks; a fairer distribution of prize money amongst the teams.
Liberty have also had a positive impact on sponsorship, too. Force India's new deal with water-giant BWT symbolises this most. Their £16m deal to repaint their livery is the largest in the team's history and has spurred on a design arms-race of sorts amongst the midfield pack. Whilst McLaren may be languishing without a title-sponsor, this is more to do with their lack of on-track success in recent years than the lack of corporate interest in the sport. Start winning again and sponsors will soon begin flocking to arguably the most stylish and glamorous team on the track.
Liberty might not be the knight in shining armour that fans hope they are - this is just a honeymoon period that will fizzle out at some point - but for now there's optimism amongst the paddock, not least because racing is back at the heart of the sport.