The high octane thrill of Formula One returns with Melbourne playing host to the first race of the season. Betsafe is proud to announce that throughout the up and coming season, leading F1 website PlanetF1 will be part of the team delivering you comprehensive previews to each race which will help you take the chequered flag with a winning betting strategy.
2015 Australian GP Highlights
It has been a long winter without four-wheeled action but the 2016 Formula One season is finally upon us as the action heads to Australia for the first round. Melbourne is the setting for the flag to be dropped and the new campaign sees a lot of change from the last time we saw any cars on track being thrashed around in anger.
We have seen eight days of testing in Barcelona in recent weeks and it whetted the appetite for the season to finally get kick-started – but what can we expect from the opening round?
At first glance Melbourne looks like a tight twisty circuit but even with 10 right-hand corners and six left, the drivers remain on full throttle for nearly 70% of the lap which means there is no room for error.
The circuit joined the F1 calendar in 1996 after taking over from Adelaide as the home of the Australian Grand Prix, and has hosted the opening round ever since.
Much like the streets of Monaco, the circuit is situated around Albert Park and is a temporary facility closely bordered by barriers and trees, which means safety cars are often in use when major incidents occur.
Unlike Monaco, though, Melbourne sees its fair share of overtaking as the circuit layout allows for more than one racing line – and with the new qualifying rules in place this could make for an exciting race day.
Lewis Hamilton has twice claimed the Australian Grand Prix in 2015 and 2008, but is tied by Kimi Raikkonen in the current field and beaten by fellow Brit Jenson Button, who has claimed victory Down Under three times.
Nico Rosberg won the race in 2014 for the Silver Arrows while Sebastian Vettel has surprising also only finished in top spot once back in 2011.
Hamilton is naturally favourite to take the chequered flag in the opening race, but Vettel’s confidence will be high after testing and currently sits third favourite behind Rosberg.
In the previous two years prior to this year’s opening round, Mercedes have claimed victory but they remain the only wins at the Albert Park track for Toto Wolff’s outfit.
McLaren boast the most overall victories but with their current plight, look unlikely to add to their 12 race wins. That said, their preseason has been light years ahead of last year, suggesting that the past Honda/McLaren success could very well be back on track. In Button and Alonso they have the two most experienced drivers on the grid and while taking the chequered flag is an unrealistic thought, a podium in Melbourne will be part of their planning after their massive early gains.
Intriguingly Ferrari sit next in the table with 10 victories, and Vettel and Raikkonen are tipped by many to cause what some would view as an upset, as the Scuderia have not won on Australian soil since 2007.
Ferrari will pose a serious threat to Mercedes this season and making a statement first race up will be exactly what the team will be looking for.
New Rules and Tyre Regulations
The introduction of the new ‘shootout’ qualifying system adds another level of intrigue to an already fascinating opening round. The idea of the new sessions is to add excitement to race day, and it could certainly do that in Melbourne if a top driver ends up at the back of the grid.
Also, the new three tyre options that Pirelli are offering will make their debut in Australia for the first time in race conditions, having been used in testing, and the jury will be out on whether they will enhance or deter some of the teams in their bid for victory as they take over from the outgoing Michelin.
What Did Testing Tell Us To Expect in Australia?
The eight-day test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over two weeks in essence revealed very little about the season ahead, and in all honesty added more intrigue to the opening race of the season.
Ferrari were quick in Spain and naturally it is only logical to presume they should’ve made ground on frontrunners Mercedes over the winter – but do not be fooled by the shiny looking timesheets for the Scuderia.
The truth is there are just too many variables to read anything into the lap times set by much of the grid. With fuel loads, tyre selections, track conditions and engine modes all mixed together along with teams trying out race simulations, it all gets very confusing.
In reality, no-one really knows how much progress each team has made but the data gathered will have given the majority of analysts a good idea. For the average fan, it simply makes it all the more exciting when the lights go out in Melbourne.
Can Anybody Stop Lewis Hamilton?
The age-old question – can anybody halt the once unstoppable reigning champion?
Of course, but it won’t be easy. The Brit has the backing of every bookie to repeat his heroics of 2014 and 2015 by making it three titles in a row – but perhaps this season will throw up his biggest challenge.
Although testing told us little about the progress of main rivals Ferrari, the Brit faces his biggest foe across the Silver Arrows garage.
Rosberg’s resurgence towards the end of last season was nothing short of extraordinary, claiming victories in each of the last three races, and while many will argue that Hamilton had the championship locked up already, the fact that he beat his team-mate convincingly in all three outings is food for thought.
The German has always been the bridesmaid behind the 31-year-old. Although he arrived three years before Hamilton in 2010, he has seen his counterpart claim two titles and his window for one himself could be closing fast.
The 2016 season poses a real opportunity for Rosberg, as Vettel’s emergence as a serious challenger means Hamilton will need to keep a constant eye on his rear view mirror.
Vettel enjoyed a period of dominance not too dissimilar to Hamilton’s while he was with Red Bull – but many neutrals are predicting a major resurgence for the four-time world champion.
Realistically Rosberg and Vettel pose Hamilton the biggest threat this season and while Formula One has lacked unpredictability in recent campaigns, this year really is genuinely entering the unknown.
Melbourne certainly won’t decide the title but it could send a serious message from one of these men to their rivals that they mean business in 2016, so strap yourselves in and set your alarm clocks as F1 hits our screens once again Down Under.
About Joe Urquhart
Joe Urquhart is a contributor for PlanetF1, the definitive site for Formula One news, features, galleries
and live coverage.