The new F1 season gets underway this Sunday with the Australian Grand Prix at the famous Albert Park circuit in Melbourne. The iconic event starts Thursday however, with F1 practice sessions and qualifying taking place on Friday and Saturday. So, who should you be keeping an eye on?
Here we take a look at three of the main challengers, including local boy Daniel Ricciardo.
Reigning four-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton is the outright favourite for this weekend’s season opening Grand Prix at Albert Park. Lining up for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, the Englishman will be chasing his third win in Melbourne and sixth victory across his past 10 races.
Lining up in a car his manufacturer claimed took more than 1000 working years to design, develop and produce, Hamilton is on the top line of betting in most practice and qualifying markets and is expected to be in pole position for the start of the race proper.
Tip: Winner ($1.95)
Sebastian Vettel ended Ferrari’s 10-year win drought on Australian soil when he took out the chequered flag last year. The ultra-competitive German will be hoping for a similar showing in 2018, although recent results suggest his Prancing Horse may struggle to keep speed with the Mercedes. Vettel took pole position only four times last year compared to Hamilton’s 11. Furthermore, he managed just one victory across his last nine races which almost saw him overhauled in the Drivers Championship by Valtteri Bottas (Red Bull).
Tip: Podium ($1.45)
Although victory appears beyond Daniel Ricciardo at this point of the season, it certainly can’t be ruled out of the equation. The generous $7 odds on him becoming the first Australian since Alan Jones in 1980 to win his home race are to be considered, especially after positive reviews of his new RB14 machine have surfaced. In any event, the Aussie will just be hoping his Renault engine stays together, given he was forced to retire from this race last year and the team suffered sporadic reliability issues last year.
Still, Red Bull will be hopeful of a big result in Melbourne and will cite the fact they won two of the last six races last year as evidence they will be challenging for spots on the podium.
Tip: Podium ($2.10)