Bottas the best bet to shine early on
Mercedes new boy can make his mark in opening practice
Australian GP practice one
Sky Sports F1, 1am Friday
Melbourne's Albert Park circuit will soon reverberate to the sound of Formula One V6 engines, heralding the traditional opening of the season, and this year the cars are expected to go around the track faster than ever.
The circuit has a reputation for not being the most reliable formguide for the year to come, but the last two runnings of the Australian Grand Prix have produced 1-2 finishes for the dominant Mercedes team.
After only two four-day tests to prepare for the season, the teams are likely to see the opening 90-minute practice session as an extension to the winter.
So, if anyone has been disguising their true pace in Barcelona they are unlikely to drop the charade just yet.
Mercedes and Ferrari have been the stars of pre-season and it’s no surprise to see Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel top the betting to go fastest in first practice, which begins late tonight. However, their respective teammates, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen, ended the two tests with the fastest times.
Bottas, new to Mercedes having been brought in to replace the retiring world champion Nico Rosberg, completed more pre-season laps than any other driver and the Finn can be expected to see plenty of action in the opening practice session.
Bottas admitted during the first week of testing that the switch to Mercedes from Williams, where he spent the first four years of his F1 career, had been more challenging than he anticipated.
However, the team have given him plenty of opportunity to familiarise himself with their way of working, and he could prove a value bet to go fastest in first practice in Australia.
On several occasions last year Hamilton seemed happy to save his speed for the sessions that counted, so punters may not see his best form right away.
V Bottas fastest in P1
1pt 9-2 Hills, Sky Bet