Venue: Albert Park
Albert Park hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton, but the Briton is fancied to win there for the third time in our Australian Grand Prix betting predictions.
Mercedes do have a formidable record in Melbourne and travel Down Under with the best-balanced set-up for the opening race of the 2018 Formula 1 campaign.
Pre-season testing suggests they have a distinct advantage over main rivals Ferrari and Red Bull when it comes to single-lap speed. That makes Hamilton a worthy favourite to prevail at 11/10, even though grid position is not as important here as it is at most other venues.
The 33-year-old matched Ayrton Senna’s record of six pole positions in Australia 12 months ago and is in good shape to edge ahead this term.
Mercedes had to settle for second and third behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in 2017, but they had taken the chequered flag first for the previous three years, including a couple of 1-2 finishes.
Team boss Toto Wolff has the luxury of sticking with a winning formula as they chase a record-equalling fifth straight constructors’ championship and Hamilton is expected to lead from the front again.
“Lewis came back strong from the winter in a good frame of mind,” Wolff said. “He is looking forward to the start of the season.
“He even enjoyed driving at the tests in Barcelona, so that was a novelty. For me, all the signs are positive.”
Bottas may prove best of the rest
Vettel (7/2) went toe-to-toe with Hamilton for much of last season, starting with form figures of 1-2-1-2-2-1, before eventually slipping 46 points behind in the title race at the end of the campaign.
However, Ferrari have made significant changes to their car over the winter, switching to a longer wheelbase in a bid to challenge Mercedes.
The vibes from testing were that the potential is there to make good progress, but that it could take time for everything to come together on the track.
Red Bull duo Max Verstappen (5/1) and Daniel Ricciardo (7/1) would prefer a circuit better suited to straight-line speed, so Mercedes second string Valtteri Bottas (7/1) may be the value alternative to Hamilton from the Australian Grand Prix odds.
The 28-year-old Finn won three times last season, but was ultimately left in Hamilton’s shadow and finished 58 points adrift of his team-mate in the standings.
However, Bottas insisted: “I am much calmer than last year going into the season. I know that I can win races, I know how much I learned, and there is so much support from everyone who wants me to do well.”
Past Australian Grand Prix results:
2017 Vettel (Ferrari), Hamilton (Mercedes), Bottas (Mercedes)
2016 Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton (Mercedes), Vettel (Ferrari)
2015 Hamilton (Mercedes), Rosberg (Mercedes), Vettel (Ferrari)
2014 Rosberg (Mercedes), Magnussen (McLaren), Button (McLaren)
2013 Raikkonen (Lotus), Alonso (Ferrari), Vettel (Red Bull)
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