Charles Leclerc appears to have all the makings of a future world champion and could make the best possible start to life at Ferrari by clinching Sunday’s unpredictable Australian Grand Prix.
The teams will head to the starting grid at Albert Park unsure of what to expect, having hardly put the cars through their paces in winter testing. As a result, you often get a few surprises at Melbourne and a debut victory for Leclerc would certainly represent an upset.
The Scuderia believe they are roughly half-a-second quicker than Mercedes heading into the season-opener, so it is no surprise to see Sebastian Vettel as the 6/4 favourite. However, questions linger over the German after his poor end to the 2018 season, with his world title hopes going up in smoke after cracking under the pressure.
Leclerc carries none of the expectations that weighed Vettel down last season and the 21-year-old is certainly one to keep an eye on when the lights go out.
Bottas is a man who desperately needs to hit the ground running in 2019 after a dreadful 2018 campaign. Given his team-mate Lewis Hamilton was able to guide his car to the world title, it was a shock to see Bottas finish the season without a win.
With the highly-rated Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings, Bottas needs a strong drive and that might spur him on to finish on the podium, potentially ahead of Hamilton, who has become a traditionally slow starter.
Renault are keen to make a splash this season after bringing in Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull. However, they have conceded they are unlikely to challenge for a podium this term, making the top six a more viable target.
While all eyes will be on home favourite Ricciardo, it could be the consistent Hulkenberg who delivers the goods for Renault. He recorded seven top-six finishes last term and usually performs well in Australia, recording four point-scoring finishes in his last five starts.