G P Betting: McLaren the team to beat
Also worth a look is Daniel Ricciardo at even money.
Taking the front two places on the grid, it looks to James Frankland that McLaren's Lewis or Jenson will be the first past the finish line at today's Melbourne Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have the biggest reason to smile today as the McLaren drivers head the field for today's Australian Grand Prix.
Going into this weekend there were many unanswered questions about the competitiveness of the field and this session answered most of them. It was McLaren, rather than Red Bull, who held back their true pace in testing and free practice. The elegant-looking Mercedes is fast, but there remains the possibility of a protest against their DRS-activated F-Duct rear wing, although race director Charlie Whiting has already declared it legal.
Ferrari had a woeful time, with Fernando Alonso spinning out of second qualifying and lining up 12th, with Felipe Massa 16th. Overall the field is much closer, with just 0.9s separating the top 10 in qualifying and 2.5s covering the top 17 runners.
In the winners market, I'd look only at the two front men, Hamilton (2.08) and Button ([4.0]). Lewis looks be back to his happy, chirpy self and has every right to be pleased having qualified more than 0.7s ahead of the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Vettel, who are fifth and sixth on the grid.
Another big surprise from qualifying is the presence of Romain Grosjean in third place, while his former World Champion teammate Kimi Raikkonen languishes down in 18th after being caught out following a slight off in first qualifying. Grosjean ([4.6]) and fourth-placed man Michael Schumacher ([3.65]) are good bets for a podium finish, with the early money favouring the Mercedes driver. Vettel ([2.74]) and Webber ([3.3]) are shorter to finish on the podium, reflecting the Red Bull's performance levels in previous years, but it's hard to tell whether their grid placings are representative of the form we'll see throughout the year.
Looking at potential points finishers, the [2.28] for Kimi Raikkonen is worth considering. The car is clearly fast as demonstrated by his teammate's third place in qualifying, and Raikkonen was known as a demon overtaker in his previous F1 career. He'll have lots of fresh rubber with which to make headway during the race too.
Also worth a look is Daniel Ricciardo at even money. The young Australian is racing at home for the first time but performed well to qualify tenth. Pastor Maldonado delivered an improved showing for Williams, qualifying eighth at a circuit that saw him post the 15th fastest time last year. The Venezuelan should also be looked at for points, with [4.5] for a top six finish an attractive pricing given Williams' reliability in pre-season testing, and the propensity for retirements in the early races.
Melbourne is a street circuit so the safety car is more likely to make an appearance at some stage during the race, with the pricing at [1.38] reflecting that. Go for the [3.2] for a non-appearance if you're feeling lucky, but given we had a red flag in second qualifying for Alonso's car being off the track at Turn 1, and the close proximity of unforgiving concrete walls around the circuit, I think it's likely we'll see Bernd Maylander in the Mercedes SLS at the head of the field at some stage tomorrow morning.