The title challengers…

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The Formula 1 season is just a few weeks away now. Practice sessions are underway and it’s already hotting up ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15.

Of course, there’s been the sad news that Fernando Alonso was airlifted to hospital following a crash in his new McLaren during testing, but with him making a solid recovery, both he, and the rest of the challengers can look forward to what is going to be a thrilling season on the track.

Paddy Power odds indicate Mercedes are favourites to clinch both the Drivers and Constructors championships; showing Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg as first and second favourite respectively. But can the likes of Alonso, Jenson Button, and Sebastian Vettel mount a challenge on the Brackley-based team?

Button, the 2009 champion, believes the new McLaren-Honda team has all the credentials to produce a race-winning car, despite McLaren not having won a race since the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012.

“We are not going to have a race-winning car at the first race, but we might have one at the last race.”

It will be touch and go depending on how Alonso reacts from his crash in Barcelona, but with Williams and Ferrari hot on their tail, they won’t be the only team going for the podium.

The Italian team, who suffered their worst season in over 20 years last term, are desperate to get back to winning ways, with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel entering the fold for 2015. They’ve replaced a string of senior staff and at the very least expect to be winning two races according to Maurizio Arrivabene, the new team principal.

And it’s been so far so good for the team. Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have seemingly already started to form a good partnership with the Finn already feeling confident about the new season. He said following testing, “It’s early days, but it’s great to see how good it is, how well people are working together, and with Sebastian we have a good relationship so we can push the team forward.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how things start to shape in the early stages of the season. Last season the first five races were won by Mercedes, and according to the odds, we can expect more of the same. But racing is an unpredictable sport, and come the starting grid in Melbourne on March 12, the likes of Vettel, Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, and Button may have other ideas.

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The Checkered Flag was set up in August 2009 and is dedicated to providing independent daily news and features from around the world of motorsport.
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