Race preview - Who will be the Wizard in Oz?

Image: Formula 1 / Twitter

The 2017 Formula 1 season will be one of transitions and new beginnings.

World Champion Nico Rosberg retired just days after winning the title last November, and former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was forced out of power when Liberty Media took over the sport earlier this winter.

Drama off the track may have dominated the headlines since the end of last season, but heading into winter testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the F1 world wanted to know if anyone has caught up with Mercedes.

Ferrari had a very good winter test with Kimi Räikkönen setting the fastest lap with an über impressive time of 1:18.634. Amazingly, the Finn's time was almost a second and half faster than Mark Webber's 2010 pole lap of 1:19.995.

Testing proved that the cars are faster and have met, or exceeded, the goal of reducing lap times by five seconds per lap. The last lingering question, however, is whether or not the new regulations have produced cars that are conducive to overtaking.

Several drivers, including Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, have gone on the record to state that they believe that the new cars create too much downforce which will make overtaking just as difficult as it was in previous years.

2016

Last year it was Nico Rosberg who was the victor in Australia, but the race started with the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen leapfrogging the all-Mercedes front row into the first corner.

The Ferraris were in control of the race early, but a horrific crash involving McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Haas F1's Esteban Gutierrez on Lap 19 brought out the red flags.

Fortunately, Alonso walked away from the accident uninjured and after a twenty-minute delay the race was restarted.

The second phase of the Grand Prix was a chess match of strategy at the front of the race order - Ferrari made a more aggressive choice putting supersoft tyres on Vettel's car, but the gamble didn't pay off and the German was forced to make an extra pit stop late in the race.

After pitting for fresh rubber Vettel closed in on Hamilton, but try as he might he could not find a way around the Briton. With just two laps to go, Vettel ran wide at the final corner ending his challenge for second place.

This year

With everything different for 2017 this one is almost impossible to predict, and it may take several races until we can say for sure who has the best car.

At the very least, however, we may find out if Ferrari and Red Bull have finally figured it out and have found a way to beat Mercedes.

Image: Pirelli Motorsports / Twitter