Ferrari to make good on Oz promise with Mercedes desert duel

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The curtain-raiser for this season’s Formula One campaign in Australia proved to be an entertaining affair, and despite the customary first and second for Mercedes, had us all in hope that Ferrari can launch a sustained title-bid this term.

Only a strategic error from the Scuderia put long-time race leader Sebastian Vettel on the back foot, with the German eventually finishing third.

The Italian squad ran Mercedes close in Bahrain last year and as the F1 circus heads to the Sakhir circuit 12 months later, there’s reason to believe we could be in for another duel in the desert.

With reigning champion Lewis Hamilton 5/6 to win in the Gulf state for a third straight year, team-mate and Australia winner Nico Rosberg leads the challengers at 2/1.

It’s four-time world champion Vettel who could be the pick at 9/2 though, while Maranello comrade Kimi Raikkonen is 16/1, a price which might entice a few to go each-way with the Finn producing a storming run to second last year.

Whoever does claim the chequered flag in Bahrain this weekend, it may be worth noting that eight of the 11 winners at this Grand Prix have gone on to claim that season’s championship.

After taking advantage of the mid-race stoppage following Fernando Alonso’s huge accident, Romain Grosjean stole the headlines by handing his debut Haas team sixth place Down Under, but odds of 20/1 suggest a top-six repeat is unlikely.

The Toro Rosso boys of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen provided much of the action in Melbourne, and with their impressive STR11 proving rapid in this early part of the campaign, both men could be solid options to back for a top-10 finish.

McLaren showed in Australia they’ve made progress too following a disastrous 2015, but with Bahrain’s searing heat and long straights putting a real test on power and reliability, they may struggle this weekend – the absence of the injured Alonso from the event puts the Woking squad on the back foot even more.

Bahrain often produces some of the best racing of the year though, and if Ferrari can take the fight to Mercedes we could be in for a classic.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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