Remarkably, 2019 will represent Formula 1’s sixth season using hybrid turbo engines.
Of course, Mercedes have dominated the sport since then, taking five Constructor’s Championships and all five Driver’s Championship titles.
The opening race weekend, traditionally Melbourne’s Australian Grand Prix, always starts off well for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who has taken pole position here for the past five seasons.
But when the lights go out and the race gets underway, things normally go awry for the Brit.
In 2014 he retired with mechanical issues, he did win this contest in 2015 and finished second to teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 but the last two seasons have seen Sebastian Vettel overhaul his starting advantage and record a comfortable victory with margins of 5.0sec and 9.9secs.
Recommended Bet: Hamilton has claimed pole here seven times from 12 visits and you have to like BetVictor’s 15/8 about him taking his current sequence to six.
Equally you also have to consider William Hill’s 7/4 about Sebastian Vettel winning this race to be a very attractive proposition.
But timing is key – in terms of when to place your bets – and if the Ferrari driver does not start on pole he may be a bigger price on race day.
Just how can Vettel win the race in a car which is not fast enough to beat Hamilton in qualifying I hear you ask? Well, cars in qualifying trim are very different from the race car that is prepared for this 58-lap race.
To quantify this; last year there was almost five seconds between Hamilton’s fastest qualifying lap and Daniel Ricciardo’s fastest race lap. With cars travelling up to 325kmh at some stages of this race, 5secs is a yawning gap.
#F1 - Starting from #AustralianGP, 1 point will be awarded to the driver who achieves the fastest lap in a race, provided that driver is also classified in the top 10. A point will also be awarded to the Constructor of the driver setting the fastest lap ⬇️https://t.co/SIEXKrax6N— FIA (@fia) March 11, 2019
Ferrari looked the best car during winter testing and Lewis Hamilton has publicly stated he believes his principle rivals could have 0.5sec per-lap advantage heading into this 2019 F1 curtain opener.
It’s doubtful this statement is brinkmanship, Hamilton said similar 12 months ago and he was proven correct.
Recommended Bet: Sebastian Vettel has podiumed here seven times in the past eight years (retiring after three laps in 2014) and he’s strongly fancied to take his third consecutive victory here on Sunday. Betfair have the best price ahead of qualifying – they go 2/1.
The race winning margins here have been 5.0sec, 9.9sec, 8.0sec, 1.3sec and 26.7sec since we entered the hybrid era and that has to lead you towards Bet365’s 13/8 about an 8sec+ winning margin.
With no major changes to engine components in recent years you wouldn’t expect too many cars to fail in this contest. But this season opening race traditionally gives us a large number of retirements.
A quarter of the 20 strong field failed to finish in 2018 and only 13 of 20 completed in 2017 when a broken floor, suspension, brakes, fuel cell, water leak and hydraulic issues accounted for much of the field.
In 2016, 16 of 22 cars completed, only 11 of 18 and 13 of 22 saw the chequered flag in the years prior to that.
As a result, we like Bet365’s 1/2 about the ‘under 15.5’ cars completing 90 percent of the race laps and therefore being ‘classified’ as a race finisher.
I’m mystified how and why Charles Leclerc is just 5/2 to win this race.
He undoubtedly has a lot of talent – he would not have been promoted to Ferrari from Sauber if that was not the case – but he has never finished better than sixth in any F1 race.
OK, he did good in moderate machinery last term but the 21-year-old could easily drop the ball if a winning opportunity was suddenly presented to him.
Maybe that’s a flimsy argument, but what cannot be dismissed is the record of No. 2 drivers at Ferrari.
Leclerc has inherited the Ferrari drive from Kimi Raikkonen who won just one race from 100 starts (on his 97th outing) during in his second stint at the Italian team alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Prior to his No. 2 role at the Italian team it was Felipe Massa who played whipping boy to the team’s then No.1 driver, Fernando Alonso. Massa went 86 races over five seasons without winning a race.
Those with long enough memories will also recall Rubens Barrichello regularly being instructed to move aside for then Ferrari teammate, Michael Schumacher.
I’m hopeful Charles Leclerc can better the recent one-from-186 record for Ferrari No. 2 drivers but he’s never going to make a winning debut for the Italian marque.
If you consider Ladbrokes are going 8/13 about Leclerc winning one or no F1 races during this year (that’s ‘under 1.5’) you have to conclude he is a lay here, in the first of 21 season-long races.
Recommended Bet: Lay Charles Leclerc at 3.75 on Betfair and other betting exchanges.
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