If the 2006 season opener at Bahrain had provided early confirmation that Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen would start as favourites for this year's title, then Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix showed that the supporting cast - Giancarlo Fisichella, Juan Pablo Montoya and Felipe Massa - had other ideas.
Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) and Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren-Mercedes) during the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix © LAT
In a neat switcheroo, each of the stellar team leaders suffered the frustration of watching their less-fancied stablemates outscore them, in a championship where a single point could be vital.
For Alonso and Schumacher, there was at least the consolation that they took some points from the weekend. For Raikkonen, there was just the bitter and by now familiar helplessness of watching from the pitlane as his rivals, including teammate Montoya, opened up championship daylight between themselves and the Finn.
Of the three leading contenders, Alonso had most reason to feel satisfied with the race outcome. Not just because he finished higher than his main rivals, but because of the way he did it. A rare fuelling gaffe by his team on Saturday afternoon left the Spaniard having to qualify and race the first stint with the equivalent of the weight handicap applied in other racing formulae.