MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Australian GP

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With the 2015 Formula 1 season kicking off this Sunday in Melbourne, Australia, the time has come for MotorSportsTalk to revive our picks for each round of the 2015 season.

Last year, each MST writer was asked to pick a race winner, a surprise finish and who had the most to prove heading into the grand prix weekend.

This time around, we’re going to shake things up a bit, with Tony DiZinno and myself now also trying to predict the podium and pick one of main storylines that will come out of the race weekend.

With this being the first race of the year, our predictions are largely based on educated guesses and estimates from pre-season testing in Spain. Nevertheless, take a look at what we’ve predicted, and be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. It’s a pick between the two Mercedes drivers, such is the pace of the W06 Hybrid. Assuming that all is equal in the way of reliability, Hamilton should have the edge at one of his favorite circuits.

Surprising FinishRomain Grosjean. 2015 marks a new dawn for Lotus, with Mercedes now powering the British team. Grosjean should be able to make up for his miserable 2014 season this year, and what better way to start than with a good haul of points in Melbourne?

Most to ProveToro Rosso. The youngest driver line-up in the history of F1 is certainly exciting, but both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. have plenty to prove on their debuts. If either can score points, it would be a big statement to the naysayers up and down the paddock.

Additional Storyline to Watch: Honda’s return. Just how will the Honda engine hold up in its first grand prix? McLaren will be sweating on the progress that has been made since winter testing finished, and a top-ten finish would surely be an enormous achievement for the British team.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. The defending World Champion kicks off his title defense by bagging a win at a race that got away from him early last year due to unreliability.

Surprising FinishMax Verstappen. I’m going to say the 17-year-old lives up to the initial hype and produces one of the more “wow!” worthy debuts in years. Magnussen’s podium last year, Hamilton’s 2007 podium, Webber’s 2002 fifth place for Minardi, Villeneuve’s 1996 pole also come to mind as others. The Toro Rosso team banged out a ton of laps in testing and I’ll go bold, saying Verstappen makes it to Q3 on debut and then scores points. Seventh or eighth seems possible for this car.

Most to ProveMcLaren-Honda. After a troubled preseason, here’s hoping the two iconic brands can at least make it to the finish and sort out the reliability issues. Rare to say a finish would be a good result, but it would be… and points would be a bonus

Additional Storyline to WatchBattle for third. If reliability doesn’t strike, Mercedes’ preseason pace has left them as clear 1-2 favorites. So who comes third? Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams all could stake reasonable claims to it, each with three different power units.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull

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Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).