5 Favorites For Sunday’s Rolex Australian Grand Prix (1 a.m. ET/ESPN 2)

The season opening Formula One race is here. The Rolex Australian Grand Prix (1 a.m. ET/ESPN 2) will go lights out on Sunday afternoon overseas, or early Sunday morning stateside. With so many changes made during the offseason, halo included, what kind of race are we shaping up for this weekend?

After the opening day of practice and how the flow of the weekend is going, here are the top five favorites to win. 

Lewis Hamilton

Shocker I know. Hamilton has scored points in 25 straight races dating all the way back to 2016. He’s two shy of tying the F1 record. So, to put Hamilton and his No. 44 Mercedes as a favorite isn’t much of a shocking storyline. But, he’s been quickest in both practices on Friday and always has his car in contention to win.

Hamilton, has two wins and eight podiums in Australia and seven top two finishes over his last nine starts overall. Five of those seven finishes were wins.

He starts from the pole.

Valtteri Bottas

Might as well put both Mercedes drivers on here. Bottas is ready to get off to a flying start to the 2018 season. Bottas, finished third in Australia last year but he ended the season just as well as he started it. He enters 2018 with three straight top two finishes, including winning the 2017 season finale. In practice, he was second and third respectively in his No. 77 Mercedes on Friday.

Unfortunately, he crashed in Q3 and the team had to change the gear box as a result. He starts 15th.

Max Verstappen

He’s only made three Australian Grand Prix starts, none of which have resulted on the podium. But, this is the year that changes. Red Bull Racing is supposed to be stronger in 2018 and so far it’s showing. The Dutch driver was third and second respectively in practice on Friday and is primed to battle for a win on Sunday. He ended 2017 with six straight top five finishes. He starts fourth on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel

The Ferrari’s are also supposed to be strong, but so far, they haven’t had much for either Mercedes nor Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel has actually been the slowest among the two Ferrari’s as Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in each session on Friday and Vettel fifth. But, I have a feeling Vettel’s No. 5 Ferrari will find its way towards the front and battle for a podium this weekend.

He starts third.

Vettel, is the defending race winner and has six podium finishes in his last seven Australia starts.

Kimi Raikkonen

I like Raikkonen in this final spot over Daniel Ricciardo. As mentioned above, Raikkonen was fourth in each session on Friday. He also has two wins and five career podiums in Australia. Ricciardo, has never finished on the podium on his home track and retired in three of the last four races in 2017. On top of that, he was only sixth and seventh respectively in practice on Friday and even qualified second. Give the edge to Raikkonen.

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