Lewis Hamilton begins the defence of his Drivers’ Championship crown in Melbourne for the start of the 2018 Formula One season. The Brit secured his fourth title last term, beating out Sebastian Vettel with a surge of brilliant form towards the end of the campaign.
However, in the past two seasons he has not enjoyed the strongest of starts. During his romps to the Championship in 2014 and 2015, the 33-year-old was imperious from the off to clinch both titles with relative ease. A slow start to the 2016 season was to cost Hamilton as he was beaten out by team-mate Nico Rosberg by five points. His failure to win any of the opening five races of the term played a huge factor in his narrow defeat at the hands of the German.
In the last campaign, he won four of the opening 10 races of the season – a low number by Hamilton’s lofty standard. The pressure applied by Sebastian Vettel forced him into mistakes, which created a path for the Ferrari driver to win the crown. However, the Mercedes driver was able to respond, reeling off five victories in six races to earn his fourth Championship.
Hamilton will be desperate to resolve his issues at the start of the season, which will ease the strain on him during the campaign. The 33-year-old is backed in the latest F1 betting odds at evens to claim the crown for the second year on the bounce, although Vettel has shown speed during testing, along with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
The Brit’s success on the circuit has displayed few flaws, although the Australian Grand Prix could be a slight weakness. He has recorded only two wins in Melbourne in his 11 seasons in the sport; although, at the same time, Hamilton has only failed to feature on the podium on three occasions.
The first came in 2009 and epitomised a frustrating campaign when he was disqualified for misleading stewards following an incident with Jano Trulli. In his first term with Mercedes he was off the pace in fifth place in Melbourne, while in the following season an engine issue forced him out in the second lap of the race.
Since then he has been the usual Hamilton, winning the race in 2015. The pace of Rosberg was too much for him to handle in the 2016 opener, as the Brit failed to convert pole position into a victory. The race was foreboding for the rest of the campaign as his team-mate edged him out to claim the maximum points.
Hamilton was also on pole position last term due to a strong run in qualifying. However, the race speed of Vettel caught out Mercedes, as he and Valtteri Bottas struggled to match the Ferrari driver on the circuit. The 33-year-old finished nine seconds off the pace, which appeared to have put down a marker in the race for the title. However, Hamilton was able to recover to beat out the German over the course of the season.
The Brit is searching for his fifth crown to break the tie with Vettel. He will be eyeing a dominant surge like his successes in 2014 and 2015 rather than the tense last two years, which have brought success and failure.