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Ferrari on top? Mercedes playing catch up?

Our new columnist, Edward Hardy, takes a look ahead to the opening round of 2019, Albert Park, Melbourne.

Australian Grand Prix: The new season is upon us!

The Formula 1 2019 season is finally here. No more month-long countdowns for the season to start. No more looking for other hobbies to fill the time. The action is back this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, 2019 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 2, Day 1 – Steve Etherington

With many driver changes but the same old rivalries, the new season looks to be as intriguing as ever and what better place to start, than the usual grand prix opener of Albert Park, Melbourne.  

What to expect from the opening weekend

With pressure surging to beat the juggernaut that is Lewis Hamilton to the Driver’s title, Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team are in full knowledge that a third consecutive Melbourne victory, is key in taking such fight to the five-time World Champion.

Mercedes AMG F1, 2019 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 2, Day 4 – Steve Etherington

With the newly appointed team principle of Mattia Binotto, confidence for the opening weekend isn’t a mythological concept from the Italians – despite the events of last season.

The ever-impressive performances from Ferrari in pre-season testing ensures the Scuderia will arrive as the clear favourite, with Hamilton admitting that the prancing horse is: “Potentially half a second quicker” than the Mercedes. 

With a change of driver alongside Vettel in the young and promising Charles Leclerc, all eyes are fixed on the German to see if he can hold off this huge psychological battle with the Monegasque from the get-go and start 2019 victorious.    

So, with Ferrari favourite to win the race and Mercedes attempting to keep on top, it isn’t just the two at the front that the storylines are present.

Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing

There is also that question if Red Bull can bring the fight to the top two in Melbourne, whilst utilising the questionable Honda engine – following the switch from Renault.

A positive pre-season perhaps suggests the gap will be tighter, but the energy drink backed squad still arrive in Australia as an unknown quantity, as to how they may perform.

All Red Bull hopes in Melbourne will be on the potential future world champion, Max Verstappen, especially after becoming the outright number one driver, following Daniel Ricciardo’s switch to Renault.

A positive result this weekend will be key for Ricciardo, at his home race, to remove doubt over his switch to the French team. 

Simply shortening the significant gap to the top three teams, in qualifying or the race, remains the most realistic result for the Australian in his debut weekend at Renault.

Therefore, with a tight encounter expected between the top two this opening weekend, questions as to how the Red Bull and Renault cars will perform, there are also many debuts and one anticipated return occurring in Australia.

Melbourne will witness the debut of two promising British drivers.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing signs autographs for the fans. Australian Grand Prix, Thursday 14th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Formula 2 Champion, George Russell in the Williams, but also Lando Norris for McLaren, the latter becoming Britain’s youngest ever driver in Formula 1 at 19 years old.  

British born Thai driver, Alexander Albon will make his debut for Toro Rosso, as the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi marks his debut for Alfa Romeo, with 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, as his teammate.

Melbourne also awaits the famous return of Robert Kubica to Formula 1 racing, following his horrific crash that took him out of the sport in 2011.

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing.
Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing. Formula One Testing, Day 4, Friday 1st March 2019. Barcelona, Spain.

Some believe if that incident never happened, then present day Kubica would be referred to as a former World Champion.

So, with many debuts occurring this weekend, the return of Robert Kubica whilst alongside the competition at the front of the grid, Melbourne is shaping up to be the perfect start for one of the most intriguing seasons Formula 1 is about to receive.

Edward Hardy

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