For the first time since he was crowned world champion six months ago, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen tops the Formula 1 driver’s standings once again.
A gap that once stretched to 46 points has been steadily closed and, yesterday, following the Spanish Grand Prix, the Dutchman surpassed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and opened up a six-point lead.
And there was nothing the Monégasque driver could do.
Leclerc survived an early challenge from Verstappen into the first corner and led comfortably until the 27th lap, when a complete loss of power engulfed his Prancing Horse and he was left limping back to the pits.
His power unit had failed him, and for the first time this season he is now the chaser, hoping to rein in the defending champion in the remaining 16 races.
For Red Bull, it couldn’t have gone much better. A one-two for the team, a maximum of 44 points for the constructors’ title race and their main rival failing to finish.
But further down the pack, where the battle between a multitude of teams is ongoing, Mercedes have suddenly found pace.
The Silver Arrows brought a barrage of upgrades to Catalonia and the visible changes in pace were stark. George Russell again outperformed teammate and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to earn the Brit a third-place podium behind Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
But Hamilton showed extraordinary speed in the latter third of the race to climb to a respectable fifth, having edged ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz into fourth for a matter of laps.
Following a collision with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap, Hamilton asked his team to retire him and save the engine.
What seemed like a small flash of self-doubt clearly vanished once the 37-year-old got up to speed, his drive a shining light in a poor year for the Briton.
Russell held his own well in the early stages of the race and fended off Verstappen consistently, helped by a period where the world champion was unable to operate his DRS.
And that was a theme of Sunday afternoon – the technical faults were aplenty.
Verstappen’s DRS issue and Leclerc’s power failure were joined by another Ferrari-powered failure for Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu – his third non-finish in just six races – and cooling issues for the Mercedes duo.
With so many upgrades brought to north-east Spain, there were bound to be teething issues, but Leclerc’s will hurt the most.
He was in such fine control for those opening laps, the race almost felt over before it really got going. How wrong that assumption was.
The travelling circus of Formula 1 heads onto the glitz and glamour of Monaco next week. And with just four points between Verstappen and Leclerc, the notoriously difficult track could make for some of the most tactical racing thus far – if the cars hold up mechanically.