2005 ended a long spell of Ferrari domination in Formula One, and it also heralded the end of several eras, with the departure of V10 engines, Minardi, Jordan and Sauber. So 2006 brings a new age in F1, going back to V8 engines now just 2.4 litres in size, added to different technical rules and new or renamed teams.
Even if the rules haven't demanded it, the cars are all quite different in detail to last year, but not from each other. Few aerodynamic rule changes this year has allowed the teams to play catch up on the more drastic aero changes from last year. Now the convergence in design is striking. The shorter v8 engines have required some layout differences between the teams with Michelin tyres over the Bridgestone runners, but this difference is barely detectable externally.
However, the visual similarities will not necessarily mean the teams will be closer on pace or have closer racing. Rather, the season will be influenced by the return of tyre changes, which tyre supplier has got it right most of the time, and how successful the engine suppliers have been in making the smaller capacity motors work.
The opening races will definitely not reveal who will have the advantage over the course of the full season. Development by the teams, engine and tyre suppliers will see teams' fortunes fluctuate throughout the year, and we may not have a clear idea of who will win the championship until the season's end.