Next weekend, the talking will stop and the racing will start. Waking up on the first Grand Prix Sunday of a new season is like Christmas morning for motorsport fans.
Aside from the new look cars, harder tyres and perhaps heightened competition for top honours, this season’s curtain-raiser will be the first since 1994 that doesn’t feature the reigning world champion.
Question is, will it feel any different?
Nico Rosberg’s maiden title came in the most dramatic of circumstances. Sebastian Vettel’s 2012 triumph may have been intensified by his run-in with Bruno Senna at Descido de Lago on lap one, but Rosberg’s moment in the spotlight was far tenser.
Being backed into a potential dream-crushing duel with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, by his teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton, edges of seats were well and truly worn out by the chequered flag. For the first time since 2008, we didn’t know who would take the championship crown until the final few corners.
I said it at the time and stick to the judgment I made back when the dust had only just settled. This was one of the best season finale’s F1 has ever seen, worthy of placement in the same category as the 2008 Brazilian “is that Glock” Grand Prix.
All the more reason, you would think, that Nico Rosberg’s absence from the 2017 season would leave a chasm in the sport. The champion is put on a pedestal. He’s the man who stands alongside F1’s bigwigs and the circuit promoters during the pre-race anthem. He’s the man with the number one on the car.
Not this season.
However, the F1 world moves on. Valtteri Bottas is the new threat on the opposite side of the garage for Lewis Hamilton to manage. Fans are anticipating a three team championship battle and relishing the potential of inter-team rivalry at Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen preparing to scrap for number one status.
In reality, not having a reigning champion in 2017 won’t detract from the show. F1 has plenty of interesting plot-points for fans to follow this season, without the need to follow the fortunes of the man that would be top of the form book.
Rosberg played the starring role in one of F1’s greatest ever finales, then left the sport on a high. Seemingly a fantastic decision for him on a personal level and a decision that is unlikely to affect what promises to be a blockbuster season.