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Hamilton begins F1 defence in season opening Australian Grand Prix

Lee Gormley | March 16, 2016

Australian Grand Prix

  • Sunday, March 20th
  • Race starts: 05:00 GMT
  • Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
  • Live on Sky Sports F1

Formula 1 season starts in Australia

The 2016 Formula 1 season races back into the spotlight this weekend, as the Australian Grand Prix takes centre stage, with Britain’s reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton aiming to start his defence strongly at a track he stormed to victory in last year.

Formula One Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne

Hamilton cruised to his second successive Drivers’ Championship crown last year, his third overall, and is 9/2 with Coral to be king of the road (win race, make fastest lap and fastest qualifier) on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, where he made his debut back in 2007.

With the defending champion entering the campaign’s opening circuit as the heavy odds-on 5/6 favourite, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg will be the main rival and threat for this race and the 2016 title.

German driver Rosberg is 2/1 to triumph in Melbourne, having done so in 2014 when he also raced to the swiftest lap, and 11/4 to secure the fastest lap time again this time around.

Alonso hopeful of new qualifying system

Two more circuits, the German and European Grand Prix, have been added to this season’s proceedings, meaning there will be 21 total races compared to the 19 that took place last term.

Hoping to enjoy a rejuvenated campaign is Spanish steerer Fernando Alonso, and the two-time world champion is 8/1 to secure a top six finish in Australia, with his team McLaren having improved their speed significantly during the off-season.

Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing

Alonso is expecting all teams to master the new qualifying format for 2016, which has been changed for the first time since 2006, with the three segments now concluding with cars being eliminated at 90-second intervals in the closing stages.

“We have so many talented people, so many clever people, they will understand perfectly the rules and we will all do the same,” stated the 34-year-old.

“There will be one exact mathematic formula to do the right thing, so I don’t think there will be any adaptation time.

“For the drivers I don’t think it will change much, we will do very fast laps when it’s time to do it.”

Home hope Ricciardo plots success

Australian competitor Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he’ll need help from the capricious weather conditions in Melbourne in order to plot his way to a podium finish on home soil, which he is 7/1 to achieve.

Wings For Life World Run photocall - Melbourne

“They will be hard to beat this weekend for sure but the good thing about Melbourne is that you never know with the weather, a bit of rain could stir things up,” stated Ricciardo, who enters his third term with Red Bull.

“Ideally this year we’ll get back in the winner’s column and get at least one victory but podiums are a start. And if I could choose to be on any podium it would be in Melbourne.”

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel may also have a say on the standings this season, beginning in Australia, where Ferrari’s main man is 11/2 to win for a second time in his illustrious career to date.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - 2015 Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying Session - Melbourne

Meanwhile, 2009 world champion Jenson Button is 8/1 for a top six finish on a track he has been victorious at twice before, with the McLaren driver aiming for a much-improved campaign after an underwhelming 2015.

Finland’s finest Kimi Raikkonen has raced to first place Down Under in both 2007 and most recently 2013, and the experienced steerer is 6/1 to rally to the fastest lap this time around, in what is sure to be a thrilling season opener.

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Coral’s top tip: Back Fernando Alonso at 8/1 to secure a top six finish at the Australian Grand Prix.

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