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Hamilton and Mercedes backed to defend F1 titles in 2015

Formula 1 defending drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton (odds-on at 1/2 to defend his title) goes into the first race of the new season as the 10/11 favourite with Coral, and get himself off to the best of starts.

However, despite starting on pole in this Australian Grand Prix last year, the Englishman (10/11 to be fastest qualifier again) crashed out, with his teammate and rival Nico Rosberg taking the glory. German Rosberg, therefore, can be backed at an enticing 2/1 to win in Australia again, while Hamilton is 11/2 not to finish.

Mercedes, though, are not expected to have it as easy this season – they claimed all but three races in 2014 – with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren-Honda, Red Bull and Williams-Mercedes all set to put up a better challenge. They are still heavily odds-on at 1/20 to win the Constructors’ Championship.

One man from Red Bull in particular, Daniel Ricciardo, has the potential to finish first on home soil. The Australian was the only driver last year, other than Hamilton and Rosberg, to win races, and he is a tempting 18/1 chance to do so in the opening 2015 GP.

Ricciardo came second in 2014, only to be disqualified, but is still a tempting 7/4 shout to finish on the podium this time around.

McLaren have the all-star line-up of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button this campaign, but will be without the double world champion Spaniard for the first race at least, after his pre-season crash. Brit Button, though, is 11/1 to be on the podium, as he managed to do so last year, thanks to Ricciardo’s disqualification.

For the famous Ferrari, meanwhile, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will be hoping his switch from Red Bull can revitalise his career. The 27-year-old German managed just podium finishes in 2014, after claiming four successive world titles on the bounce, and was overshadowed by his then-Australian teammate. He is 14/1 to win this first race, and 2/1 to be in the top three.

Williams can never be discounted, and their star man, Valtteri Bottas, had six podium finishes in 2014, as he came fourth for the season. The Fin is 13/8 to be in the top three in Australia.

Finally, watch out for Dutchman Max Verstappen, who is set to be the youngest ever F1 driver aged just 17. He has been highly impressive in pre-season, and is a tempting 14/1 chance to finish in the top six on his debut.