Hamilton rivals seek early advantage

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The Formula 1 2018 season is nearly upon us and much like the previous four years, the aim is very much the same for all but one team: try and get close to Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows have dominated F1 since the switch to V6 turbo-charged engines, with Lewis Hamilton capturing his fourth world title in 2017, three of which have come in the past four seasons.

The talk coming out of the paddock following winter testing is that Mercedes remain the team to beat, hence why Hamilton is the 20/21 favourite to win the Australian Grand Prix for the third time in his career.

The F1 curtain-raiser has not always followed the script, though, with the teams still coming to terms with their new cars due to a short window in which to test them.

The Australian Grand Prix, perhaps more than any other race on the calendar, has a habit of throwing up the occasional surprise winner, with Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus in 2013 being the most recent.

Although last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel is no stranger to taking the chequered flag, his struggles with Ferrari in 2016 meant he raised a few eyebrows when he came home first in Melbourne.

The German, who led the title race for so long last year, is 16/5 to make it back-to-back Australian Grand Prix triumphs.

It is Red Bull who are perhaps the most intriguing prospect, having finished 2017 so strongly. Can they make it a three-way fight for the title this year?

Well, Max Verstappen is 23/4 to win Down Under while team mate Daniel Ricciardo is 15/2 to become the first Aussie-born driver to win the race since 1980.

Outside of the expected top three, McLaren will hope they can start making up for lost time after ditching Honda power units in favour of Renault.

Results in winter testing for McLaren were mixed to say the least, so it is perhaps best to look elsewhere in the top-six finish market for other options.

Force India’s Sergio Perez at 19/4 and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg at 43/20 look good value to enjoy strong starts to the F1 season.

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