Formula One Australian GP 2017: Hamilton vs Bottas, Ferrari to rise again and a bit of 'Mad Max'

Bryan Rodrigues
Formula One, Formula One 2017, Australian Grand Prix, Five things to look forward to in the Australian Grand Prix, 2017 Australian Grand Prix, Formula One news

Reuters.

The wait is almost over as the 2017 Formula One season is upon us and given all the hype surrounding the new season, the Formula One fans will hope to enjoy a cracking season. As always, there were a number of changes made ahead of the start of this season, with the biggest being the "aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tires and reduction of car weight".

Also read: 2017 Australian Grand Prix schedule

As opposed to last year, this season is expected to be a lot more competitive and it won't be just a few drivers competing for the world championship. Pre-season testing showed us that Mercedes are not the outright favourites, as the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull topped the time sheets on a number of occasions.

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The 2017 Formula One cars look a lot more aggressive thanks to the regulation to make them wider, heavier and run on fatter tyres. The rear tyres in particular are 25 percent wider than last year and have a very low rate of degradation so as not to detract from the cars' enhanced performance.

This season is expected to be unlike any other because of the number of changes made by the FIA, and it will certainly make for an interesting watch. The 2017 Australian Grand Prix will give Formula One fans an idea of what to expect for the rest of the season and here are five things to look forward to from Melbourne.

1. Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas

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The two Mercedes drivers have said during a number of interviews that they have a really good relationship, unlike what Hamilton had with Nico Rosberg last year, but things could change when they get on the track. Hamilton has only one goal in mind and that is to become the world champion again, while Bottas has a lot to prove in his first season at Mercedes.

The Brit is not said to be the easiest teammate to work with and while a lot of people are already saying that Bottas will not be able to match up with Hamilton, it will be interesting to see how the Finn fares.

2. The start of something new for Ferrari

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Ferrari were one of the most dominant figures in Formula One for quite a long time, particularly when Michael Schumacher drove for them. They then suffered a slight decline in the last few years and were struggling to keep up with the top teams in Formula One, but they look more like their old self this season.

Ferrari were one of the fastest cars during pre-season and while no one expects them to dominate the sport again from the first race of the season, they are heading in the right direction. They have not won a constructors' title since 2008 and a lot of pressure is mounting on team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and there is a genuine feeling that Ferrari has made significant progress this season. 

3. Faster cars and faster lap times

This season, the sport gave special attention to aerodynamics, so that the cars can go much faster and the results from pre-season were really positive. This offers cars better grip and extra speed around corners and with more down force and grip, they will certainly be a few seconds per lap faster even if they may now also be a little more difficult to drive.

While the drivers admitted that the cars are more difficult to handle this season due to increased down force, the Formula One fans are certainly going to enjoy watching the cars go faster and faster.

4. Red Bull Racing could surprise a few

Red Bull had a really quite pre-season and while a lot of people are saying that they will not be able to match the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari, they could surprise a few because of their drivers. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are two of the most promising drivers in Formula One at the moment and while they might not be favourites to win the world championship, they could cause a few upsets.

Also, with the Australian Grand Prix being Ricciardo's home race, he will be determined to start his 2017 Formula One season with a strong performance.

5. McLaren's problems could continue

McLaren had a torrid time during pre-season testing as they completed the least number of laps and reports say that they completed only 30 per cent of the development work they had planned during testing. McLaren will be using engines provided by Honda this season and that has caused them a number of problems.

Honda said recently that they would solve all their engine issues before the start of the season but both Fernando Alonso and team chief Eric Boullier have both publicly criticised the Japanese manufacturer. McLaren could also risk losing Alonso midway through the season if they fail to give him a strong enough car to compete.

6. Force India on course for another strong season

Force India enjoyed their best season in 2016 when they finished fourth in the constructors championship ahead of the likes of Williams, McLaren and Renault, despite having an inferior budget. During their car launch, team chief Vijay Mallya said that the aim was to get into the top three in 2017, but after their pre-season testing, that looks highly unlikely.

They were about 1.5 seconds off the pace of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, but deputy team principal Robert Fernley said their new car is performing as well as expected. While they might not be able to compete with the top teams, they could once again challenge the middle order teams and end the season with another strong fourth place finish.

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