5 talking points ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix

16 Mar 2016 12:23

With the season-opening Australian Grand Prix now just days away, Press Association Sport dissects all the big talking points heading into the new campaign.

1. I see Lewis Hamilton has courted yet further controversy this week?

It wouldn't be Formula One without Hamilton causing some stir or another, but even for him, it has been a busy few days. Firstly, the 31-year-old took aim at a casino in New Zealand for a treating him like "dirt" in a Twitter rant which has since been deleted. He then raised eyebrows with a bizarre video filmed on board a flight from New Zealand in which he said: "So we don't know where we're going, we think we're going to one place but we might be going to China cos there are a lot of Chinese people on this flight." The video was posted to his Snapchat account. The Briton then posted another video in which he appeared to take a selfie riding a motorbike on a motorway in Auckland. The police subsequently investigated the incident, but took no further action.

2. Is he in the right frame of mind to begin the defence of his championship?

Well, it is certainly a rather odd way to prepare for the Albert Park opener. Hamilton seemed distracted at last week's Mercedes kick-off in Stuttgart, and his latest offerings on social media will do little to allay fears his mind is not perhaps where it should be. But we have been here before with the Briton, and on more occasions than not, he has managed to deliver the goods. So, don't be surprised to see the 31-year-old romp to the chequered flag here.

3. So, we know Hamilton starts as the favourite, but where will his closest challenge come from this season?

The obvious answer is Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. Rosberg took Hamilton to the wire in 2014, but his offering last year was rather tepid. Indeed Hamilton wrapped up the title with three races to spare. Rosberg won the final three rounds of the championship to provide him with some confidence that he may be able to take the challenge to Hamilton in 2016, but when speaking to the British media, Rosberg did not sound like a man filled with confidence. "There is the evidence that I can beat him on a string of occasions in 2014," he said. "I need to hope that he doesn't have an awesome season like last year and that for me everything falls into place and I get everything out of it. But there is no magic bullet." Hmm...

4. What about Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel then?

There is something of a quiet air of optimism at the famous Italian team that they may have made enough progress over the winter to challenge Mercedes. They looked quick and reliable in pre-season testing, but we will only see their true pace in qualifying on Saturday. Until then, it is almost impossible to tell how strong the Prancing Horse will be.

5. And what about this new qualifying format... what do I need to know?

As the old adage goes, if it 'aint broke don't fix it, so why they have revamped qualifying remains a mystery. The slowest driver will be eliminated every 90 seconds in a new knock-out formula which the teams have approved, but most of the drivers and the sport's fan, are not impressed.