The pre-season testing once again didn't prove to be the accurate barometer to judge a team's development. To write off a team only on the basis of testing is a risk taken at one's own peril, and by now most teams realise this and are, hence, cautious in their conclusions. They, however, do take serious note of their own performance.
Red Bull was as swift as ever and there were no surprises there but McLaren seemed set to play the catch-up game with both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button criticising the 2011 car, MP4-26, before the season opener in Australia. They almost looked to have resigned to fate that their title challenge would have to wait at least until the end of the first quarter of the season. Hamilton had remarked with hope, "as long as we pick up a good few points in the first few races, then we won't be miles behind."
However, not only did McLaren manage to pick up precious points, they also turned out to be the closest challenger to the runaway Red Bulls and then took it a notch further by triumphing in China - only the 3rd GP of the year. The turn around was brilliant and even Hamilton didn't forget to thank the team.
"To have turned the car around and made it a winner - we've never done something that big in such a short space of time. I take my hat off to everybody back at the McLaren Technical Centre. Once again, they've performed miracles, but we can't sit still," he said.
Well, a miracle it has been, something that now is the need of the hour for Ferrari. The Prancing horse had been fast enough in pre-season to feel confident about their technical upgrade and their chances. The Scuderia team was, in fact, expected to pose the biggest threat to Red Bull at least at the beginning, after emerging as the pace-setters alongside the defending champions. However, on judgement day they turned out to be off pace and lagged behind by a margin. Things unfortunately, haven't improved significantly since, although the podium finish for Fernando Alonso at the Turkish Grand Prix would have given a ray of hope to the Italian team.
Mercedes GP had also looked more than positive after their testing. Michael Schumacher had stated that he believed the team was on the right track and Mercedes would soon become a championship contender, and whether they were already there would be clear only after the season began. The clarity since would certainly not have pleased the Mercedes camp, although they seem to be on their way to setting things right if their show in Turkey is any indication. Both, Nico Rosberg and Schumacher were faster in Istanbul than they have been anywhere in a long time.
Each team now has a fairly good idea about where it stands with respect to other teams and what can and should be done to move ahead of the competition and what are its limitations. All cars, irrespective of their positions, are works in progress.
The season, however, is still fresh and the teams still have time to turn around their fortunes, with a few already showing the signs. But, which of them would actually be able to do enough is a million dollar question. It will, nevertheless, be an interesting championship, one that will definitely not be short on excitement, especially with the Indian Grand Prix finally set to make its debut in October.