Three races into the 2010 season and I have to admit I've still not drawn a total picture in my mind of where every Formula 1 team is in relation to its rivals, apart from one: Red Bull clearly has the fastest car, and goes into Shanghai this weekend as the odds-on favourite.
It has had pole for the first three grands prix, and locked out the front row in Melbourne. It scored a one-two finish in the last race of last season in Abu Dhabi, and three races into 2010 has repeated that result, after a lot of questions were asked about its reliability. Other teams would be quite jealous of a one-two finish every three races, wouldn't they? And don't forget Red Bull was one-two here last year, too.
Of course, the closer you get to the peak, the more likely you are to fall off, and Red Bull has suffered more than its fair share of mechanical trouble so far this season. It's a consequence of exploiting more from the regulations than its rivals.
But while Mark Webber suffered an engine blow-up in Malaysia practice, we've also seen blow-ups from Ferrari - including a pretty big one for Fernando Alonso. He vented his frustration by only parking the car on the run to Turn 4, even though I'm sure he felt it go at Turn 1 - a classic "I'll keep my foot in and launch it properly because I'm pissed off" moment. I've been there myself!
Mark Webber takes a closer look at McLaren's F-duct © LAT
What about its rivals?
The very nature of F1 means that every track will play to the strengths or weaknesses of the respective teams. Last year, it was easy to say McLaren had aero problems but was good mechanically - so we knew they'd be good at Monaco for example - but building a picture like that this year has been much harder.
An obvious aspect to point out is McLaren's strong top speed, but otherwise it's quite tricky. Ferrari seems to be the best 'average' car of the frontrunners, and is quite quick everywhere we've been, but McLaren's pace has been more random. It's up to those teams to pull their fingers out now and catch Red Bull up.
One team that has impressed me a lot this year is Renault. I didn't really give them much chance pre-season - how wrong I was! Robert Kubica's drives in Melbourne and Malaysia were superb, and just like Fernando he's going to push that team hard. Renault is a title-winning team, and that DNA doesn't totally disappear because of a couple of bad seasons. It is definitely the team most likely to challenge the big four on a consistent basis.
Webber: Close but no cigar
No one would like to see Mark Webber do well more than me, and that was a ballsy, brave pole in Malaysia. But, this being a business where you can't hide from harsh realities, I'm sure he's replayed in his mind many times what happened at the first corner, why he made it relatively easy for Vettel to get that all-important track position, which helped win him the race. Will he do it again? I doubt it. Ironic that he won his first grand prix last year after being penalised for being too aggressive on the run to the first corner, and here he was too much the other way.
He needs to find that middle ground. He's got all the skills required of him, but after such a great performance on Saturday, to allow such a soft pass on the Sunday - that was 25 points he gave up in favour of 18. It's part of his armoury as a grand prix driver. Throughout my career I knew I had to work at qualifying, and I'm sure Mark is looking at all the areas that are the weak spots in his performance.
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