Vettel and Rosberg aim to end Hamilton's run

Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:57am EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One is assured of novelty this season, with fresh faces and a record 21 races including the first in Azerbaijan, even if Lewis Hamilton becomes a four-times world champion with Mercedes.

The betting odds suggest 2016 will once again be the Briton's year, with William Hill laying 4/7 on him taking his third title in a row. Team mate Nico Rosberg is 3/1 and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel 4/1.

Nobody else comes close in the bookmakers' estimation. Vettel's Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who turns 37 in October and could be racing his farewell season, is only 40/1.

However, there are grounds to suggest things may pan out differently once the racing starts at Melbourne's Albert Park next week.

Rosberg, runner-up for the past two seasons but winner of the last three races of 2015 from pole position, has a point to prove and could be on the cusp of something remarkable if he can pick up where he left off in Abu Dhabi last November.

Vettel, who won four titles in a row with Red Bull before Hamilton dethroned him in 2014, will want to deny the Briton the satisfaction of equaling his tally and becoming only the fifth quadruple champion.

Both Germans have pounded out the laps in pre-season testing in Barcelona, with Mercedes the most reliable car and Ferrari setting the more eye-catching times.

While there are plenty in the paddock who suspect Mercedes could be even more dominant, and maybe embarrassingly quick in Australia, nobody knows for sure just where they stand in relation to each other.   Continued...

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton takes a curve follewed by Ferrari Sebastian Vettel during a testing session at Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona, Spain, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea - RTSAA1D