A Hot Start in Australia: A New-Look Formula 1 Will Heat Melbourne Up

Australian Grand Prix 2019

It’s been a long time since we saw any high-speed racing action, so it’s definitely a great feeling for many motorsport fans to finally see the return of the Formula 1 season this weekend. The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit will once again roar to life as twenty drivers battle for the right to be called the fastest.

However, the return of the motorsport league we all know and love comes with several changes. While the usual suspects are still the favourites to win the competition, a reshuffle has changed the way the entire grid will look and feel.

Depending on which team or driver your support, you may see your chances improve or worsen during the preseason. We still don’t know what will happen until the chequered flag is waved, though, so it’s best to reconsider your Formula 1 2019 predictions as we take a look at the current F1 landscape.

Talking Points

Will this finally be Vettel’s year?

One of the most prevalent storylines of this year is Sebastian Vettel and his chase for another Formula 1 championship.

Many fans will look at the 2018 season and see a Ferrari team that went toe-to-toe with Mercedes in the early half of the season. Unfortunately, they faltered in the latter stages and had to bitterly look on as Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows added another world championship under their belt.

The comedy of errors that plagued the Prancing Horse was not only limited to crashes and mechanical troubles. They didn’t give their star German the support they could have provided to improve his chances. Kimi Raikkonen was also a huge part of the problem for Vettel, and it was evident on the race track as the Flying Finn openly challenged team orders at times.

Fortunately for Vettel, things are looking better for the Scuderia. Mattia Binotto is the new team principal, an exciting upstart in Charles Leclerc is now the team’s second driver, and their machines outpaced their rivals in pre-season testing.

Vettel is confident of the team’s chances moving forward. Their shot at the title will now be up to them not messing up their races throughout the season.

Hamilton will be in for a tough test

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is focused ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton poses for a photo during an Australian Grand Prix pre-weekend event

Lewis Hamilton will always be a favourite among the many us tips made at this point of the season. The Brit has proven himself as a winner and will surely be able to compete with Ferrari and any other racing team.

The Mercedes star overturned a subpar start to 2018 and pulled off a series of wins that helped him win the Driver’s Championship in Mexico. He will be coming to this season as the most accomplished driver in the grid; he also knows that there will be a huge target on his back in every single race.

Hamilton should have enough to help with the pressure, though. Valtteri Bottas has shown a lot of chemistry with his co-driver, and we can expect more fantastic work from the two of them. Mercedes have also made structural changes in their chain of command to help the team perform better.

The Brit will always be a fast one on the tracks, and they will need something to catch off track in Melbourne.

Same faces, different places

Vettel and Hamilton may dominate a lot of Formula 1 2019 news circles, but they aren’t the only ones that have grabbed the attention. There are a number of stories that will shape how the season pans out.

The first race of the season will start on a somber note as long-time FIA race director Charlie Whiting passed away three days before the race began. There will most likely be a tribute for Whiting before the race begins.

A familiar name returns to the Formula 1 scene as Alfa Rome take Sauber’s place. There was also quite a shuffle as every team sans Mercedes and Haas made changes to their line-ups. The most notable swaps were Ricciardo’s move to Renault and Raikkonen becoming the lead driver at Alfa Romeo.

Ricciardo’s departure also gives Max Verstappen the keys to the kingdom that is Red Bull. This team is still far from catching up to the leaders, but they may reach places with Verstappen being the clear No 1 driver.

History

Of the 20 drivers participating in the starting grid, only three men have won in Melbourne. Raikkonen won twice in 2007 and 2013; Hamilton took the 2008 and 2015 races while Vettel finished first in the 2011, 2017, and 2018 races.

The 2018 race was an interesting spectacle in itself. Hamilton was actually ahead for much of the race, but a bit of luck saw Vettel make a quick pit stop that eventually helped him stay ahead of Hamilton and win the race. We may see a similar situation here, but the playing field is more even due to the roster changes.

What are the odds?

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel remains determined to challenge Lewis Hamilton in this year's Formula 1 season

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in action during the Formula 1 pre-season testing session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack

The usual suspects are booked as favourites to finish at the top of the podium, but there’s one name that is surprisingly included at the top.

Leclerc is tipped at 3.50 to win this race, and Hamilton and Vettel — who are both booked at 2.50 — are the only other drivers to have odds lower than the former Sauber driver. It will be intriguing to see how the Frenchman performs with Ferrari’s powerful engine.

Verstappen is the fourth-favourite to win at 11.00, and the ever-dependable Bottas is up at 13.00. However, I believe that Bottas should have what it takes to finish third in the podium and make life a living hell for Vettel.

Due to Ricciardo’s risky move to Renault, he dropped down to 201.00. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly is upgraded to 41.00. Whether Red Bull manage to keep it up with the other two is up in the air, though: Honda-powered cars have been plagued by reliability issues, and it will be curious to see how they handle the engine throughout the season.

 

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