All the preliminary action is over, now it’s time to set the stage for Sunday’s 2019 Formula 1 season opener in Australia. Sebastian Vettel will look to become just the third driver in the history of this event to win in three consecutive years joining his idol Michael Schumacher with that distinction. If Vettel can win too, he will join Schumacher and Lex Davison with the most wins ever in the Australian Grand Prix with four triumphs.
Heading into this weekend, it appeared that Vettel was going to be the favorite as the Ferrari’s had the most pace in the preseason testing. Mix that with the fact that he had four straight podiums in Melbourne including two consecutive wins, and you can why. But, Vettel has been playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton though.
Vettel, was second quickest in two of the three practice sessions this weekend and fifth in the other. He starts third in Sunday’s 58 Lap race.
His teammate Charles Leclerc finished 13th last year with Sauber and was third fastest in two of the three sessions himself. He starts fifth. Do they have anything for the Mercedes duo on Sunday though?
Hamilton, has a perfect weekend going with being fastest in all three practice session and starting on the pole. He also has four consecutive top two finishes in this race including a win in 2015.
Valtteri Bottas starts second but Australia hasn’t typically been kind for the Finland native. Bottas, only has one podium finish in six tries and was only fifth and seventh respectively in two of the three practice sessions. Does his track position help him, or does he falter. He closed 2018 with four straight fifth place finishes and knows this may be a make or break year for him.
The Red Bull’s have a conundrum on their hands. Max Verstappen starts fourth and was fourth and third respectively in practice on Friday but only ninth on the speed charts on Saturday after a chassis change overnight. He has never finished on the podium in Australia with a best finish of fifth coming in 2015. Can he get on the podium on Sunday for the first time of his career? He closed 2018 with five straight podiums but he has a new powerplant in Honda this year. Do they have the pace and reliability to last all 191 miles?
His teammate Pierre Gasly has his hands full because they messed up his qualifying run. He was bumped from the top 10 in the first round of qualifying and instead of getting his way back in, he sat idle on pit road. He will start 17th as a result.
These are the top three teams in F1 and have won the last 118 races dating back to 2014. These are the favorites for Sunday. But, who else could surprise?
Everyone said that they had the best team in the midfield battle. They were strong this offseason and closed 2018 with some momentum. Also, if you remember right, they were strong last year in Australia and if not for a disaster couple of laps in the early portions of last year’s race where their tires fell off, literally, they were destined for dual top six finishes.
This year, they were fourth and fifth respectively in practice on Saturday morning and will start sixth and seventh respectively in the race.
Top 5 Finishers Prediction
44 Hamilton – He backups his 2018 title with a win out of the gates to start 2019.
5 Vettel – He earns his fifth straight podium in Australia and his eighth since 2011.
16 Leclerc – He starts his Ferrari era with a podium.
77 Bottas – He just doesn’t have the pace to hold off the Ferrari’s.
8 Grosjean – He may have retired in four of his last five starts in Australia but he gets a top five on Sunday