F1 Season 2019: Hamilton faces new challenges to stay on top

Drivers' Championship winner Lewis Hamilton
Can Lewis win a sixth championship?

The F1 returns this weekend for the Melbourne Grand Prix - the sport's traditional curtain raiser - so Charles Perrin identifies the key markets for the new season.

"For LeClerc to win a race this season, you can get 1/3. He looks short at 2/5 to qualify fastest at any event."

After recharging their batteries and getting some significant testing under their belts over the winter, the Formula 1 drivers are raring to go again. Lewis Hamilton remains the man to beat, as he eyes a sixth World Championship title, but he'll face fresh challenges in 2019 and there are fascinating sub plots to watch out for.

Big year for Charles LeClerc

Having completed a switch to Ferrari and replacing former world champion Kimi Raikkonen in the process, Charles LeClerc arguably has big shoes to fill.

The Monacan driver - who had a remarkable season with Sauber - will be hoping to make a serious impression on the track this year. He has been well-backed in the drivers specials markets for 2019.

For LeClerc to win a race this season, you can get 1/3. He looks short at 2/5 to qualify fastest at any event.

There is an added incentive this season with F1 changing its scoring system so that a point is awarded to the driver who sets the fastest lap in a Grand Prix.

While LeClerc is something of an upstart, he has the potential to shake things up in the title race.

Hamilton faces challenge to stay at the top

Once again, all eyes will be on Hamilton and whether he can soar to new heights this season. The odds might suggest that Hamilton will have it all his own way, but the British driver has work on his hands to keep Ferrari at bay.

Hamilton will be all too well aware that Ferrari will come back much stronger after making costly mistakes last season.

At 1/7, Hamilton is a shoo-in to finish in the top three of the drivers' championship and he is very well priced at 8/15 to score more points than his rival Sebastian Vettel.

Valtteri Bottas will also need to step things up to apply more pressure on his Mercedes team-mate. After a fifth-place finish in the drivers' standings last term, Bottas is an outsider to get the chequered flag in Melbourne at 14/1.

And Hamilton is at 1/10 to qualify fastest more times than Bottas over the course of the season.

vettel bottas 1280x720.jpg

Sebastian Vettel's revenge plot

With four world championships to his name, Vettel has little to prove. However, after a campaign that was littered with errors in 2018, Vettel will be eager to match Hamilton's haul of five crowns.

Ferrari's new SF90 model looked smooth during testing, and while it is difficult to make definitive judgements, the early signs look good. Vettel - who drew first blood at Melbourne last year - will be desperate to get off to a quick start once again.

While it may not come as a surprise that Vettel is 7/4 to win the opening race of the season for the third straight year, the other outright markets make for interesting reading.

LeClerc is fancied at 5/2 to finish ahead of Vettel in the Drivers' Championship standings. And Mercedes are 4/5 while Ferrari are 13/8 to lift the Constructors Championship. As you can see, it's going to be a season full of drama, subplots and intense rivalries.

Charles Perrin,

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