- The Australian Grand Prix is the first race on the Formula 1 calendar.
- World Champion Lewis Hamilton is the heavy favorite to win.
- The balance of power might have shifted this offseason, however.
The Australian Grand Prix (March 24th) is one of the best opening races in motorsports. Albert Park is a perennially challenging street circuit, and a rusty driver can find himself in a world of trouble very quickly. It’s also a challenging first test of the new cars, as surface changes and no off-season testing means coming fully prepared is next to impossible.
Australian Grand Prix Betting Odds
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): +115
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): +325
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull): +550
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): +700
- Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): +750
What’s the Smart Wager?
The first race of the 2018 Formula 1 season doesn’t promise to be a departure from the trajectory of the last four seasons. Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly the favorite, defending his world championship in a car that seems set for another year of front-running and obvious superiority. The car Mercedes brings to the 2018 season is an evolution of the diva that won 12 out of 20 races last year, with changes intended to keep it competitive on the few circuits where it struggled. Mercedes team officials have been promising more consistent performance since Monaco last year, and while they’re not the type to underdeliver, they do appear to be struggling. Changing the underlying character of a car is fiendishly difficult work.
Just behind Hamilton in the Mercedes are Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull. The Ferrari was ostensibly the fastest in winter testing but set those blistering times on hypersoft tires, while Red Bull and Mercedes focused on long runs and medium tires. Though the Ferrari was definitely the challenger last year, it’s very likely that Red Bull have caught up in development and are now the biggest challenge to Mercedes’ dominance.
Red Bull improved dramatically over the course of the 2017 season and was able to contend for (and secure) race wins by the end of the season. If that development has continued, the Red Bull could be perfectly capable of challenging the Mercedes in Australia. From the outside, it appears that Red Bull has made a lot of progress in their aerodynamic program, with the 2018 car featuring a lot of the same elements and concepts Mercedes is employing. The barge board arrangement is visibly more complex than last year, and hopefully more effective than 2017’s disastrous effort. In the final year of Red Bull’s contract with engine supplier Renault, they’ll be looking for results before likely making the transition to Honda power in 2019.
Ferrari have been extremely aggressive in developing the 2018 car, and it’s likely that they’ll need some time to come to grips with what they’ve created. The new car has a much longer wheelbase than the old one, but maintains its high rake, which offers a lot of potential performance but will likely entail some missteps along the way. Obviously, they have not been able to test the new car on the streets at Albert Park, and as confident as they are they are heading into this race without a lot of quality data.
Altogether, it’s no surprise that Hamilton is a strong favorite to win in Australia. He’s currently listed at very nearly even odds (+115) at Bovada, which almost exactly reflects the rate at which Hamilton won races in 2017. On similar terms is Sebastian Vettel, who won a quarter of last year’s races and is listed at +325. Verstappen’s odds (+550) are a little short under this calculation. Verstappen won just two races last year, but makes sense considering the limitations the Red Bull driver had to contend with early in the season. Verstappen is likely the value pick, with Hamilton’s odds too short for motor racing of any kind and Vettel in a very new and very untested car.