Rosberg To Rule In Melbourne
The new Formula 1 season kicks off on Sunday in Australia with Lewis Hamilton looking to retain his World Championship crown.
The Season Ahead
There are some technical changes for the teams to grapple with ahead of the 2015 season, most notably the relaxing of the freeze on engine development, which could enable the likes of Ferrari and Williams to close the gap on Mercedes, but the headlines have been dominated by drivers. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will renew their rivalry at Mercedes, but Sebastian Vettel is now with Ferrari and Fernando Alonso has returned to McClaren
The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne is not a full time racetrack and grip can be a problem on the bumpy surface, particularly early on in the weekend. There are fast sections, but the slow corners put a strain on braking systems, and the uneven surface, combined with the typically high temperatures are can take their toll on tyres. Traction, robust braking and tyre preservation are the key factors for success in this race.
In The Pits
Daniel Ricciardo is now lead driver at Red Bull after his breakthrough season in 2014, but neither he nor his new team mate Daniil Kyvat are likely to make much impact early on. The Renault powertrain is still a long way short of the performance level that will enable the team to compete with Mercedes and testing has been dogged by reliability issues, so I won’t be backing Ricciardo at 16/1 or Kyvat at 66/1 to start the season with a bang.
McClaren haven’t won a Grand Prix since 2012 and their fortunes aren’t likely to improve any time soon. Their car is now powered by a Honda engine, but the development process has been slow and plagued with problems ranging from oil leaks to sensor problems. Add in the absence of Alonso for the opening race, and the ingredients are in place for a slow start, making Jenson Button and Alonso’s replacement, Kevin Magnussen, poor betting options.
Mercedes’ pre-season testing wasn’t all plain sailing as Hamilton suffered a fever and Rosberg a strained neck, but the car looked as impressive as last season and still has a clear performance edge on the rest of the grid.
The other teams may catch up as the weeks go by, but in Australia, it is sure to be yet another duel between Hamilton and Rosberg for the chequered flag, with the nod going to the German at a bigger price.
For the first few weeks of the season, the other teams will certainly be playing catch-up but there are signs that Ferrari may be more competitive this year than last. Their car was extremely quick at the start of testing in Jerez and they seem to be best-placed to capitalise on any Mercedes slip-ups. Back Sebastian Vettel at 12/1 and Kimi Raikkonen at 20/1 to spring a surprise in Melbourne.