Vettel lacked support in 2018

F1: 2019 Australian Grand Prix Preview

"We've got a contract that says that we're the first race and that runs until 2023".

Lewis Hamilton has won four of those crowns and heads into the new season as a double-defending champion. "We have experience, it's no coincidence that we are world champions so we have to be diligent and stay balanced", said Hamilton, who has won twice in Melbourne.

One aspect he clearly takes strength from is the continuity in terms of retaining Valtteri Bottas as his teammate for a third season.

The four-times champion will bid for a third successive win at Albert Park's season-opener, having foiled pole-sitter Hamilton amid a virtual safety auto deployment previous year.

"I hope that this year we get to have a lot of fun".

Mercedes has claimed both Drivers' and Constructors' titles in each year of the hybrid era, and on each occasion has wrapped up the respective championship with at least a race to spare.

"At this point we are all hunters and we are all the hunted". This year's campaign kicks off in Australia on Sunday and ahead of the race, Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Co came together to meet their adoring fans.

David Beckham pranked by James Corden with fake LA Galaxy statue
Thankfully for him, the disastrous statue was actually part of an elaborate prank by friend James Corden on The Late Late Show . It doesn't look anything like me though, look at my eyes! "The only thing that is good is my hair".

"I don't think it's hard to read, I think it's quite clear", he said of the pecking order.

Mercedes have done that in the past, but there is a growing feeling in the paddock that Ferrari could have the edge this season, with a new team principal in place, after Mattia Binotto replaced Maurizio Arrivabene, and a faster vehicle. He has a new partner in Pierre Gasly after Daniel Ricciardo's shock decision to leave for Renault.

Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon spun and hit the wall during Practice 1, leading to the session being red flagged. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) was a stand-in at two Grand Prix for Sauber in 2017, but is embarking on his first full season.

Also keep an ear out on Off The Ball this weekend.

He gets his opportunity at Williams, which finished last in the constructors' championship in 2018.

However, don't set too much store on the opening race when it comes to the Drivers' Championship. A victor now gets 25 points with 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and one for the subsequent places.

Bottas says the key to his new approach will be being more guarded with his time to ensure he is in the best possible position at the start of each race weekend to maximise results.

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