Formula One's Big Beasts Mercedes and Ferrari have unveiled their new cars. Ralph Ellis takes a first look at what we might expect...
"Hamilton let slip concerns about how the halo might slow his car down. That would worry me if I was backing Mercedes at [1.7] to win the Constructors Championship again."
So somebody asked Lewis Hamilton what he expected to see when the new Ferrari was launched. "It will be red," he said.
He wasn't wrong, either. In fact the SF-71H unveiled in Marinello wasn't just red, but as red as it has been for a few years, with not a hint anywhere of the white contrasts that have been used in recent seasons.
Industrial espionage at play again? Probably not. But there is little doubt that the Mercedes analysts will already be poring over the pictures of their biggest rivals' new car to get an idea of what they can expect this season.
Reigning champion Hamilton starts as the [2.28] favourite to retain his Drivers championship in 2018 but he and everybody else knows that depends as heavily on the technical skills of the designers and engineers as it does on the drivers.
So Thursday was a big day. Mercedes unveiled their new car, and within a few hours we saw the Ferrari too. The curious thing is that after a season when they were striking differences between them, this year they have grown more alike.
Mercedes have done their best to tame the 'diva' elements that saw them fastest on straight circuits in 2017 but unable to cope with twisting corners in places like Monaco. The suspension all round is brand new.
Over in Italy meanwhile they have lengthened the wheelbase in search of more flat speed on the straighter circuits. The aerodynamic properties look better, and the cooling system which caused reliability problems has been dramatically revised.
Testing in Barcelona
Of course we won't start to get real clues about who has won the design race until testing begins in Barcelona on Monday.
But what is very apparent from the first look at the machines which will be on the grid this season is that the biggest design problem has been to incorporate the new 'halo' bar above the drivers' cockpit.
Aimed as a safety device, it adds a couple of kilograms of weight to the overall bulk of each car and how it flows into the aerodynamic properties is going to be crucial when the racing begins in Melbourne on March 25th.
At a first glance Ferrari seem to have done a better job of building it into the design and the respective attitudes of the teams was given away by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitting that "given the chance I'd take a chainsaw to it."
Hamilton close to new contract
Hamilton also let slip his concerns about how it might slow his car down and make it harder to go for the sort of dramatic overtaking moves which have been a feature of his driving throughout his career.
That would worry me if I was backing Mercedes at [1.7] to win the Constructors Championship again.
Hamilton has at least confirmed that he is close to signing the new £40m a year contract that was under discussion at the back end of last season. "A few details," he said, while insisting he had talked to nobody else and was totally committed to extending his six-year stay with the German team.
The sooner that's signed the better because it looks as if he will have a bigger job on hand holding Vettel at bay this time round. The new Ferrari may be redder than ever, but there looks far more to its potential than merely the colour.