AUTHOR: William Kedjanyi

STAR FORMULA ONE PREVIEW Sat: Australian Grand Prix 2024

Early risers this weekend will not be short of sporting options, with the F1 season moving to Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix. There have only been two rounds, but it’s clear that there’s one team – and one man – to beat, writes WILLIAM KEDJANYI.

2024 Australian Grand Prix 
Albert Park, Melbourne, Victoria
Practice three: Sky Sports F1/Sky Sports Main Event HD, 1.30am Saturday
Qualifying: Sky Sports F1/Sky Sports Main Event HD, 4am Saturday
Race: Sky Sports F1/Sky Sports Main Event HD, 4am Sunday

The Story So Far

Is the same as last year – one of Red Bull domination. We’ve only had two races so far this season and both have finished with a 1-2 for Red Bull, as Max Verstappen has beaten Sergio Perez with ease in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Whilst there’s an entire season left to go, chances of anyone else taking the drivers’ or constructors’ title look as remote as ever.

Ferrari have enjoyed a strong start to the season, with Charles Leclerc pushing Max Verstappen close in qualifying in both rounds whilst Carlos Sainz – before appendix surgery, which he’s recovered from – has taken a podium finish in Bahrain. There have been contrasting situations from Mercedes, with George Russell finishing fifth and sixth whilst Lewis Hamilton has finished seventh and ninth so far.

McLaren have been competitive – Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have both taken points finishes from the first two rounds – and Fernando Alonso continues to be competitive for Aston Martin, with two points finishes so far whilst Lance Stroll has struggled.

The rest of the field – bar a points finish for Nico Hulkenberg in Saudi Arabia – haven’t gotten that close to the leading lights and could be set for a long hard campaign.


Early Signs

The two practice sessions went to McLaren’s Lando Norris (FP1) and Charles Leclerc (FP2), with the Ferrari’s showing ominous pace over both their shorter and longer runs in FP2. Carlos Sainz was third behind Leclerc and Verstappen, despite returning from appendix surgery – long story short, the rest have some distance to go to catch Red Bull and Ferrari.

A red flag caused by Alex Albon meant that several drivers lost out on some running time, meaning that Lando Norris just held off from Max Verstappen in FP1, with the field closely bunched together.

The 9/10 turn chicane caused havoc in FP1 with Lewis Hamilton suffering floor damage after running over the kerbs, Russell nearly losing control, Valtteri Bottas with a spin and Fernando Alonso with a trip through the gravel, and after a big smash following Turn 6, Alex Albon (Williams) ws taken out of the Friday running. With his chassis damaged beyond repair, and no spare option for Williams, Logan Sergeant has been withdrawn from the race this weekend so Albon can take to the grid.

In FP2, the pecking order appeared to become more clear, with Ferrari impressing on their medium tyre long pace runs and their two cars sandwiched Verstappen. The Aston Martin duo of Alonso and Stroll impressed, finishing fourth and fifth, and whilst McLaren’s pairing finished seventh and ninth, their long form pace was encouraging, and they appear to be responding well to this track.

Track Guide 🚦

Length: Approximately 5.3 kilometers (3.3 miles)
Turns: 16 (mix of fast, medium, and slow-speed corners.)
Surface: Smooth asphalt surface with minimal elevation changes.
Characteristics: A blend of fast straights, technical sections, and challenging braking zones.

A challenging circuit with plenty of overtaking opportunities, Albert Park rewards cars that excel in straight-line speed. High-downforce cars also excel in the technical sections that will test driver skill, as Friday practice has shown. The circuit is punctuated by heavy braking zones, particularly at turns 3, 9, and 13, and whilst there are long straights, there’s a highly technical aspect to this race.

Weather 🌥️

Saturday – FP3 and Qualifying
Conditions: Partly cloudy in the morning before an improvement of cloudiness in the afternoon. Slight chance of light rain/drizzle in the morning. Light to moderate southeasterly wind increasing in the afternoon with gusts up to 40 kph.
FP3: 17°C. Q: 19°C.
Maximum temperature expected: 19 Celsius
Minimum temperature expected: 13 Celsius
Chance of rain: 20%

Sunday – Race
Conditions: Partly cloudy in the morning with a very slight chance of a shower. Improvement in the afternoon with a dry and mostly sunny race expected. Light to moderate southerly wind during the race (gusts up to 25 kph).
RACE: 20/21°C.
Maximum temperature expected: 21 Celsius
Minimum temperature expected: 13 Celsius
Chance of rain: <20%

Verdict 🗣️

It seems pretty clear that the two strongest teams are Red Bull and Ferrari, but the market has already hardened around them with Verstappen ? for victory and Perez  ? and Leclerc ? for a podium spot before tonight’s qualifying session.

Qualifying might well provide the better value, with two prices catching the eye. The first is Star’s boosted price of 13/8 that Charles Leclerc can take pole. Ferrari’s one-lap pace is the closest anyone can get to Red Bull – as was the case last season – and Leclerc has already shown great pace in practice. Albert Park appears to be suiting the SF-24 down to the ground and whilst the Red Bulls will be better in qualifying than practice – Max Verstappen lost some time thanks to an enforced delay – even at peak form there’s little between the pair and 13/8 is worth a small chance.

For those who think that Red Bull will just be too strong – something to be expected in the race on Sunday – then the 7/4 on Verstappen completing the Fastest Qualifier, Fastest Lap & Race Winner treble will appeal whilst the 10/11 on the Fastest Qualifier and Race Winner double will surely catch the eye of some heavy hitters. Charles Leclerc will have something to say about pole position at least and 13/8 seems a generous price for a small interest.

BACK Charles Leclerc Fastest Qualifier (Boosted) 2 pts at 13/8 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (MARCH 2024): PROFIT +3.53 points



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