The Australian Grand Prix, the traditional F1 curtain-raiser, takes place this weekend. James Gray thinks Ferrari could be about to use the Melbourne race to make a statement to Lewis Hamilton and co...
"It would be Ferrari's third Australian win in a row and given the pace they showed in pre-season, they look strong for a 4/7 victory"
Whether they opt for a minute's silence or, as one pundit suggested, a minute of making as much noise as they can before the season gets underway in Melbourne, there will be an outpouring of grief for race director Charlie Whiting before the lights go red and then green on Sunday.
Whiting passed away suddenly on Thursday, leaving a huge hole in the race weekend and the F1 family. The drivers' press conference, just hours after the news broke, was hard to watch as the contenders for this year's title tried to process what had happened. Charlie was their boss in some ways but their friend in many others. He will be sadly missed.
That said, racing drivers are some of the most focused people on the planet and the first race is the worst place to lose concentration. Expect fireworks on the track, no matter what the circumstances.
Ferrari ready to end Mercedes' dominance
There is not enough room for all the unknowns that buzz around the grid at the opening race of the season but there is a general acceptance that 2019 will be another two-horse race in the Constructors' Championship.
Mercedes are 10/11 favourites for a sixth consecutive title, which would equal the record set by Ferrari between 1999 and 2004, as if the Prancing Horse needed more motivation to wrestle back supremacy. They are slim underdogs though at 6/5 to do so.
On race day, Ferrari will have a new team principal - Mattia Binotto is altogether less autocratic than Maurizio Arrivabene was - and are 4/7 to bring home the first Grand Prix of the season. It would be their third Australian win in a row and given the pace they showed in pre-season, they may not even need to rely on the software glitch that denied Mercedes the win last year.
Bottas a changed man
I've always thought Valtteri Bottas is the ultimate forgotten man of Formula 1. He was an impressive in his first four seasons with Williams, repeatedly overachieving, and proved the perfect man for Toto Wolff when Nico Rosberg dropped out after the 2016 season.
Since then, he has been forced to play second fiddle - but now he wants to be a leading man. He has returned with a new beard and a new attitude, unwilling to sit in Lewis Hamilton's shadow any longer.
In one of the two fastest cars on the grid, backing Bottas to get on the podium at 9/4 seems like an absolute no-brainer while a win for the Finn looks a bit of a stretch at 14/1; his team-mate Hamilton in an identical car is 9/4 to win.
Ricciardo's Renault revenge
In his home Grand Prix, all eyes will be on Renault new boy Daniel Ricciardo. 'The Honey Badger' walked away from Red Bull last year to sign a massive contract with Renault, reportedly worth as much as £25million a year. Renault will not wait long for a return on their money though.
The signs so far are good. Only Mercedes and Ferrari completed more laps than them in preseason and Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest man outside the big four during the eight days of testing.
Reading too much into testing can be dangerous but with a pay cheque to justify and a home crowd to please, I like Ricciardo - who is a 100/1 shot to take the win - to finish in the top six at 7/4.