The pre-season frenzy of getting an extraordinarily complicated new car ready finally hit the surface this week. Along with some big surprises in F1, some predictable reactions and some welcome returns. With a flurry of car launches over the next few days, as well as more team personnel changes than ever before, plus sweeping rule changes, there has never been a busier pre-season than 2014.
The normally spaced out car launches are coming thick and fast as we head off to Jerez on Tuesday 28th. Ferrari make their debut today, Sauber on Sunday, Toro Rosso on Monday, Red Bull, Mercedes and Caterham, Tuesday. A lot is hanging on the Jerez test and right now the weather forecast is cloudy and 14C for Tuesday, the same on Wednesday with rain in the afternoon, and 17C with sunshine all day Thursday.
They were predicted to be ugly, and certainly the nose that Williams have revealed in a pre-launch graphic lived up to the notion that we would have a grid full of 'anteaters' in 2014. But hold on, the side-view of the Force India didn't look so bad; then there was the striking new trident nose for the McLaren MP4-29, which looks brilliant in silver, and then we had the twin 'tusk' of the Lotus E22, or more accurately 'the bottle opener'. And a few more suggestions, besides.
As the cars come out from under wraps it will be interesting to see how they have all approached the new regs, not least the Newey interpretation (because cynics in the pitlane argue that there is always an evolution towards what Red Bull have done).
At the F1 strategy meeting this week it was clear that Bernie was not prepared to listen to arguments against his double points plan for the last race of the season. Despite all the lobbying and rhetoric from people like Luca Montezemolo and Sebastian Vettel, all the team bosses sat on their hands. Martin Whitmarsh, Head of FOTA, wasn't at the meeting at all, his place being taken by Sam Michael. But presumably the FOTA fans' forums can now be booted into touch, because the fans have never been so unified in their hatred for one regulation, yet they are being comprehensively ignored. Not even engaged.
This may lead to problems at the end of the year, because if the 2014 World Champion gets the title only on the basis of a contrivance to grab TV audience, then many might say he's not the real World Champion. There will be the Bernie World Champion, and the World Champion based on the rules we all know and understand. The Fans' 2014 World Champion.
Eric not Martin
You always felt that McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh was too nice a bloke to be a team principal and ultimately he has been moved aside for the yet-to-be-announced Eric Boullier. A deeply talented former British Aerospace engineer, Martin will have no trouble applying his skill in one of the other divisions of the McLaren automotive business.
For Boullier, who ran the DAMS team before stepping up to Lotus in 2010, it will be a welcome relief not to be worrying about the bank balance from race to race, or to have to speak to people like Mansoor Ijaz (Quantum Motorsport) ever again. With the departure of many senior technical staff from Lotus, the most important being James Allison to Ferrari, their CEO Patrick Louis and now Eric Boullier, it's hard to think of an F1 team that has undergone so much change from season to season.
Everybody's favourite Japanese driver is back on the grid despite having a very lucrative offer to continue with Ferrari in sports cars. What is Ferrari's loss is Caterham and the rest of F1's gain. We can get by with just three rookies - there's enough change going on throughout the rest of the sport. Nothing against Marcus Ericsson, but It would have been good to have someone of the talent of Robin Frijns in the other Caterham, though as reserve driver he might - just might - get the odd opportunity.
Another Flemish-speaking driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, has been confirmed as McLaren's reserve driver and appeared at the launch this week. This brings to an end Gary Paffett's role in that position. At least when McLaren put someone forward for a Young Driver Test, they'll be under 30.
As if the Sky and BBC teams didn't have enough new rules and regs to introduce us to in the first race...there's more. Following this week's meetings of the Strategy Group and the World Motor Sport Council, drivers won't be allowed to save fuel by crossing the finishing line and stopping their cars. At least that's the plan. With everyone likely to be marginal on 100kgs of fuel (compared to around 160kgs in 2013) then the Race Director doesn't want 22 cars parking just beyond the chequered flag. So the rule, which has yet to be rubber-stamped, will require all cars to complete a slowing down lap.
Another tweak is for the new 5-second penalties imposed by the stewards that can be taken just before a pit-stop. Under the proposal, drivers can serve five seconds in their pitbox, before mechanics can change the tyres. This will certainly balance out what have often been race-wrecking penalties for marginal infringements. It's a smart move.