When the new car design rules for Formula 1 in 2017 were confirmed, most expected Red Bull to be the big beneficiaries.
The Milton Keynes-based team was one of the main voices in the push towards greater aerodynamics and the resulting changes were a watered down version of proposals they put forward.
Add to that the re-motivating of their chief designer Adrian Newey, the man responsible for their rise, and it really seemed as if the Austrian energy drinks giant would be cantering back to the top step of the podium.
With just a week to go until the first race in Australia, however, is that really the case or will the Bulls be grazing behind Ferrari’s Prancing Horse and Mercedes’ Silver Arrow?
Certainly, when the new RB13 was launched before the first pre-season test in Barcelona, most were taken aback by how simple it looked.
We had seen spaceships from Ferrari, Mercedes and a few others so to see nothing particularly groundbreaking on Red Bull’s interpretation of the new rules was pretty surprising.
‘Oh, Newey is just hiding all the bits he doesn’t want others to see until Melbourne’ most believe, and there are upgrades coming for Albert Park, yet maybe Red Bull has actually taken a different approach.
Maybe the new car is simple on purpose as they look to make up for a still underpowered Renault power unit by maximising straight line speed.
As Mercedes and Ferrari add T-wings here and little swoops there, all that will do is slow their cars down where downforce isn’t needed.
If the new Red Bull can at least match the downforce of their rivals through the corners while also having a slippery body to maximise top speed, that could be the combination that allows them to challenge for victories.
Based on testing, however, it seems there is still work to be done as reliability niggles with the power unit meant the RB13 didn’t look as strong as their main rivals
Red Bull has been keen to emphasise it will be a few races, perhaps even mid-season before they can realistically battle Mercedes, so we shouldn’t be too surprised if they appear a little behind their rivals.
But if that is to be the case, how can their drivers fight for the title if they expect to be behind for the first 5-10 races?
Either way, the pending battle between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo promises to be one of the most fiercely contested between team-mates as they vie to become number one.
The Australian is under pressure to match the ever-improving Dutchman and keep the 19-year-old behind as he is seen as the future of the Red Bull team.
Therefore, if the ‘honey badger’ wants to keep his dream alive of winning titles with the company that got him to F1, he must not give Christian Horner and the rest of the hierarchy the option of putting their eggs into the Verstappen basket.
There is also the shadow of Carlos Sainz lurking over the team, with the Spaniard targeting 2018 as the year he moves up the grid.
Returning back to Red Bull’s 2017 credentials and, to answer the question posed in the title, the first impression would indicate that, like 2009, Newey hasn’t quite pulled off another masterstroke right from the get go.
Instead, it will be about whether they can repeat what they did eight years ago and develop quickly enough to be in the championship picture.
Red Bull has a design team more than capable of doing so, a driver line-up that can certainly ruffle the feathers of those around them but will the power unit progression keep up?
The answer will come in the first few rounds but, by the end of the year, don’t be too surprised to see the matte dark blue filling the mirrors of Lewis Hamilton and Co. both on the track and in the championship standings.