No Nico Rosberg. No rival. Nobody to stand in the way of Lewis Hamilton winning a fourth Formula One championship? Not quite.
Rosberg stunned the world of sport when he announced, just five days after ending his long-running losing streak to Hamilton and claiming his maiden grand prix crown, that, at the tender age of 31, he would not be returning to defend it.
The German's unprecedented decision came as an enormous shock to the Formula One paddock, his Mercedes team, but not to his greatest rival. Rosberg had to put his life on hold to stand a chance of beating Hamilton, and the latter claimed he knew that he would not be prepared to do it again.
Rosberg, whose relationship with Hamilton became so bitter towards the very end that they could barely exchange pleasantries, bowed out as a champion. And now it is up to Hamilton to reclaim his title.
The perception is that it will be easy. Mercedes swerved a mouth-watering match-up of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso or Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and instead opted for Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. It was not the blockbuster choice that many would have wanted. Even Rosberg claimed that Alonso would have been his preferred replacement. "There would have been fireworks," Rosberg said.
But Mercedes, despite their incredible success over the past three years, have grown tired of a rivalry which simmered and then continued to boil over. Another explosive pairing is the last thing they would want.
Bottas, 27, may be quick and he may be consistent, but by his very Finnish nature he is a calming figure, too. Something Mercedes desperately wanted after three years of Hamilton versus Rosberg.
Despite their public insistence that they expect Bottas to challenge Hamilton, Mercedes privately will be happy with an able number two - a driver who can play second fiddle to the Briton while collating enough points to win a fourth consecutive constructors' championship.
Bottas is yet to win in Formula One. He has never been on pole position. Over the other side of the Mercedes garage, Hamilton has three titles, 53 victories and 61 pole positions under his bulging belt. Hamilton will end his career as one of the finest drivers the sport has ever seen. There is no doubting it will be a tall order for Bottas.
So, who can really stop Hamilton from winning his fourth title and joining an exclusive group that so far only includes Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Vettel? Well, it could be the final name on that elite list.
Vettel, who dominated the sport en route to claiming four consecutive driver championships between 2010-2013, endured a disappointing season last time out. Ferrari were in turmoil. Vettel's future with the team was called into question. And the Prancing Horse was not galloping forward but rather left at the starting gate.
Two thoroughly encouraging pre-season tests in Barcelona, however, has led many to believe that Ferrari, whose charge will be spearheaded by Vettel, could be in a position not only to challenge Hamilton's Mercedes team but beat it, too.
Indeed Hamilton recently said that Ferrari may now be considered the favourites. Already faster than Mercedes in pre-season, the Briton accused Vettel and co of "bluffing". He fears there may be more to come from the Italian team and, while lap times in testing have to be taken with a pinch of salt, he could very well be right.
"2017 is going to be a hard battle," Hamilton tweeted. "I hope you are ready!"
Triple world champion Hamilton in the blue corner? And Vettel, the four-time champion in the red? Who wouldn't be ready for that?
Let's get ready to rumble.