Sebastian Vettel has every right to feel confident as the Formula One circus gets underway for another season.
He sits in the seat that just about every driver on the grid wants to be in and he already has three Drivers’ Championships to his name at just 25 years of age.
His rivals cast an envious look in Red Bull’s direction as their recent spell of dominance has set the benchmark for the rest of the grid to follow.
The German can draw similarities between himself and his hero Michael Schumacher, who won five successive Drivers’ Championships with Ferrari between 2000-2004.Back then critics labelled Formula One boring, but they are not doing the same this time around.
The paddock has witnessed a several pretty significant changes over the winter, mainly Lewis Hamilton’s switch from McLaren to Mercedes, a change full of uncertainty as he joins a team that has struggled to reach the heights of the 2009 season when they were known as Brawn GP.
Hamilton has made a bold move and one that means that he certainly will not be fighting at the front of the pack this season, but he has the potential to enhance his reputation in the sport if he can revive the fortunes of his struggling team in the same way that Michael Schumacher did at Ferrari back in 1996.
Hamilton’s former home back at McLaren is one that keeps telling itself that everything will be fine when secretly it misses its former occupant. A 14-year relationship came to an abrupt end at the end of last season and both parties maintained that the time was right to move on. Inwardly, they may admit that they could have resolved their difficulties had they both made some more room for each other.
In Maranello there is quiet cause for optimism as they appear to be in a stronger position now than they were this time last year. In Fernando Alonso they have a driver who produced arguably his finest season behind the wheel of a Formula One car last year and they will be eager to deliver him a machine that enables him to go one step further and lift the Drivers’ Championship this season.
Lotus will also be feeling confident after a strong showing in pre-season testing combined with the fact that the enigmatic Kimi Raikkonen produced the sort of season that had earmarked him as the fastest driver in the sport during his first spell in Formula One. Over the last few years there have been clear signs of progress at the team formerly known as Renault and they may not have to wait much longer before they will be challenging for race wins on a regular basis.
There are five drivers making their debuts this weekend and they will all be looking to impress as they make their first tentative steps towards becoming a top level racer. For some simply making the grid will be as far as their careers will go but for others, they have the chance to follow in the footsteps of those before them and make their mark on the ever-changing world of Formula One.
As the stage is set for the opening race of the season each driver will be hoping that he can rise to the top as millions of people look on from around the world. Each of them have the same ambition, but only one of them will be able to fulfil it.