Motorsport: Mercedes duo pick up where they left off in 2014

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Updated: March 14, 2015

2015 Formula 1 season featured betting preview – Australian Grand Prix: Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia; 58 laps, 5.303km circuit length, race distance 307.574km; Sunday, March 15, 4pm

 

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About the track

Nestled within the grounds of one of Melbourne’s many city parks, the track—officially the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit—is made up of public roads, which encircle Albert Park Lake. As such, there’s little rubber build-up until cars hit the track as part of the preliminary program three days prior to the GP. The track is a mix of long fast sections, super-fast corners (the F1 cars take turn 5 at about 245km/h) and a handful of legitimate passing opportunities. However, the surface is notoriously slippery and bumpy with contrasting weather conditions. This year’s race will run in cool conditions with a stiff breeze blowing straight off nearby Port Phillip Bay (providing a tailwind off the start grid). Pirelli will bring the white-marked medium and yellow-banded soft compounds to the Albert Park Circuit.

 

About the race

Jenson Button is the most successful driver on the current grid with three victories in Melbourne, whilst Kimi Raikkonen’s 2013 triumph makes him the only other multiple winner still racing. Each of the last nine races has been won by a different constructor than the previous season – you have to go back to Renault’s 2005 and 2006 successes with Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso respectively for back-to-back wins – underlining how unpredictable this season-opening race has been since relocating to Melbourne in 1996.

The lap record around Albert Park is one minute, 24.125 seconds, set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. As proof of how much slower modern F1 cars are relative to the V10 beasts back then, the quickest race lap in last year’s Australian Grand Prix was 1:32.478. Nico Rosberg (pictured below) is the defending champion but will start along side his teammate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton. The Brit’s fourth pole in Australia and the 39th of his career looked easy, such was his confidence in the Mercedes F1 W06 once set-up changes had enhanced its handling and balance.

 

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Mercedes bolted from the stalls in pre-season testing in impressive fashion, as did another team. Ferrari proved that their winter test pace was genuine in practice and qualifying, and at one stage Sebastian Vettel looked a possible candidate for the front row before qualifying fourth. Kimi Raikkonen was unhappy on his first run, but got it together on the second and will start fifth. They will be in the thick of things with Williams and possibly Red Bull for best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes.

Felipe Massa underlined the form shown by Williams last year to qualify third with teammate Valtteri Bottas starting from position six. However, Bottas’ participation in the race is in doubt after he suffered a back problem during qualifying. The Finn, who qualified sixth, said he first felt the problem during Q2. He then ran wide over a kerb in final qualifying, exacerbating his discomfort.

Local hope Daniel Ricciardo looks unlikely to repeat his stellar run of 2014 (finishing second before being disqualified). Ricciardo’s car is onto its second engine already (teams only have four for the season) and stopped on the pit lane entry in the morning. In Q3 he pushed the RB11 to its limit as he used the soft tyre for the first time. He said he was happy with seventh, which he felt was reasonable reward for his effort. His new teammate Daniil Kvyat struggled for grip early in qualifying and will start from 13th.

The big shock in qualifying was the form of McLaren. Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will start from positions 17 and 18. The last time McLarens started so far back was Malaysia in 2010 when heavy rain left Button and Hamilton 17th and 20th. Before that, John Watson and Niki Lauda famously qualified 22nd and 23rd for McLaren at Long Beach before finishing a spectacular 1-2 finish in the race, but no such recovery can be expected today.

 

Confirmed bets (card finalised)

Nico Rosberg WIN (one unit @ $3.25) – there’s no value in backing Hamilton for the win at $1.36 but his teammate is priced attractively given he’s utilising the same machinery. Rosberg was outdriven by Hamilton at key points of last year’s championship so will no shortage of motivation to gain an early edge on his teammate and make it successive wins in Australia.

Daniel Ricciardo top 6 (one unit @ $1.60) – the Aussie has had a tough lead-up, with little time on the track in Friday’s practise, but squeezed out a decent lap in qualifying. The key to his chances is the excellent economy of the Red Bull Renault. That should allow Ricciardo to run with reduced fuel load, which will decrease tyre wear. Watch for him making up ground late in each run.

• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT); prices with thanks to PinnacleBet (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.

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