Who gets your backing for F1 2012? Place your bets now!
Testing is complete and the eagerly-anticipated 2012 Formula 1 season gets underway in Melbourne this weekend, with Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel once again looking the ones to beat for the constructor and drivers championship respectively, although it would be wrong to say that their testing in Spain had gone without the odd minor hiccup.
It is probably worth pointing out the most significant minor alterations to the sport this coming season which include:
• During a safety-car period all lapped cars will be able to unlap themselves and join the back of the pack. The thought behind this is to ensure a clean restart with those at the front not being immediately faced with slower cars
• The maximum race time is now four hours. Cars which were in the pit lane when the race was suspended will now be allowed to re-join the cars on the grid in the position they were at the time of the suspension
• As well as pre-season testing for the first time there will be one three-day period of testing in-season (dates to be confirmed).
• All tyres must now be used on the first day of practice (formerly only three sets allowed on Friday)
There have been a number of driver changes but the most significant will see 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen return with the Lotus Team after a two-year break during which he had been competing in the World Rally Championship.
There will be 20 races during the year with Bahrain being restored after missing 2011 and the return of the US Grand Prix at a brand-new circuit in Austin Texas.
Six World Champions will line up in Australia and our friends at Betvictor.com
, at the time of writing, are the stand alone top price at 11/10 on Vettel to land a hat-trick of titles. The German's Red Bull could, once again, be in a different class to his rivals but at this time of the year McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus must feel confident that they can close the gap between Red Bull and the rest in 2012, especially as Adrian Newey's latest car has not impressed everyone although it is, of course, early days.
Fernando Alonso (11/2) will be hoping his new Ferrari is more competitive in competition than it has looked in testing but you write off the 2005/06 Champion at your peril. His car was inferior to both Red Bull and McLaren in 2011 yet he still had nine podium finishes in finishing fourth.
Lewis Hamilton is 6/1 third favourite despite the fact that he finished 43 points and three places behind team-mate Jenson Button in 2011. Hamilton had a difficult year both on and off the track, and it was the first time he had been out-driven by a team-mate with three wins countered by any number of visits to the stewards' room and subsequent penalties - mostly after brushes with Felipe Massa.