F1 2019: Australian Grand Prix

Lights-out at Melbourne at 5:10am (Photo by Will Taylor-Medhurst/Getty Images)

David Hollywood looks forward to the season opening Australian Grand Prix from Albert Park – lights out at Melbourne at 5:10am

Last Time Out:

In 2018, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes strolled to a fourth-consecutive world championship, a fifth in total, with eight wins in the last eleven races.

Prior to that, the season promised to be a competitive affair with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari edging the first half of the campaign. Errors by the challengers and excellence by the champions saw Mercedes match Red Bull’s remarkable four-in-a-row of both constructor and driver titles.

Win both this year and they’ll eclipse Ferrari’s record of four drivers’ and five constructors’ wins.

Red Bull were stranded in third once again, miles ahead of fourth, and a fair stretch behind Ferrari.

Renault were ‘crowned’ best of the rest in that fourth place, while Sauber jumped off the foot of the Championship table at the expense of Williams, who continued to nose-dive.

Honourable mentions go to Force India and Haas who achieved more than their budgets should have allowed and could have pipped Renault if it weren’t for some very unfortunate occurrences and incidents.

See Bar One Racing’s F1 2019 betting here

What to Look out for this Year:

New regulations are in effect that are designed to create better racing. Less-complicated aerodynamics should increase the likelihood of overtaking.

Additionally, there is always scope for a rearranging of the competitive order when regulations change. Some teams will get it right from the start, others will be playing catch-up.

By the look of testing, teams have diverged considerably in their aero-ethos. This is great news.

Testing in F1 is a notoriously poor indicator. Ferrari have been the fastest team at pre-season testing for the last three years, including their running this February. Mercedes secured pole position in the first race and have been crowned World Champions in each of those years.

That being said, Ferrari look very fast. The car appears balanced, the drivers appear happy, as do the political strands of the team.

Other notable performers were Alpha-Romeo (formerly Sauber), Toro Rosso, Red Bull, and the power supplier of the latter two – Honda.

The Track:

The Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne is an interesting track to start the season on.

It’s a combination of a normal F1 track and a street circuit. Horsepower is important but not essential; downforce and handling are more important, but again, not decisive.

Ultimately, it’s not the most representative race to start the season, which only makes things more interesting.

Despite Melbourne’s idiosyncrasies, it’s a wonderful venue, and is most certainly the only place an F1 season should kick off.

It’s a sports-mad city, the race looks fantastic from a broadcaster’s perspective, and the racing itself is usually tense and competitive, if, historically, a little short on overtaking.

The Race:

Ferrari have a strong recent record at this opening race, winning the last two years. Mercedes the previous three.

It’s clear the sport needs more teams fighting for the major honours.

If the various proponents are to believed, Ferrari have the edge at the front, with Red Bull and Merecedes in a dust-up for second. I expect Mercedes to be clear of Red Bull.

In terms of the midfield, there appear to be two tiers now. In tier one: the well-funded Renault team, Haas, and Alpha Romeo; underneath them we have McLaren, Force India, Toro Rosso-Honda, and Williams.

Ferrari’s new driver Charles Leclerc is expected to shine in his debut year for the Scuderia. Red Bull welcome the talented Pierre Gasly who replaces Daniel Ricciardo.

It’s Ricciardo’s move to Renault that is the most compelling. As the biggest road-car manufacturer in the field, Renault have the resources to break the midfield glass ceiling and start chasing the top three.

The addition of Ricciardo is a statement of intent. His battle with teammate Nico Hulkenburg will be of particular interest this year, specifically in qualifying.

Merecedes have been nearly impossible to read in the pre-season phony war. There car’s DNA has always had some concerning traits regarding tyre wear and low-speed corner traction, Melbourne can cause them problems.

Verdict:

Bar One Racing has a host of extra-markets for the F1 2019 season, so thankfully there’s a bevy of bets to recommend.

I’ll keep it to three and you can click through here to look at alternatives.

They’ve flattered to deceive in the past, however this looks their best car in years. Ferrari to win this race.

Charles Leclerc would be a sensational winner. Sebastian Vettel is the market leader and the more-sensible option.

Sebastian Vettel to win at 7/5

It’s a ways down the pecking order, as Williams will almost surely be basement dwellers from start to finish this season, but I’m looking at Robert Kubica vs George Russell.

Kubica’s injury history (a near-severed arm) and comeback is already racing legend. He was as good as Hamilton and Vettel before that fateful rally crash and I would love for him to be back at that level. Unfortunately for the popular Polish driver, I don’t see him beating his talented rookie team mate in Russell.

George Russell to win Australian GP Head to Head at 15/20

My third bet is a tilt at some value.

McLaren are a team on the long road back to relevance. In terms of expertise and resource, they’ll surely get there. I don’t see it happening this year though. Incremental improvement must be their goal. They’re running the less than perfect Renault power-plant, their own engineering has let them down in terms of reliability as well, and they’ve a rookie driver in Lando Norris.

They’ll start the race mid-pack and could easily be swept up in a first corner incident, survive that and their car looks the most likely to fail to finish, in my opinion.

McLaren as First Constructor to Retire at 6/1



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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article