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Mercedes' Domination Threatened?

The pre-season is over and the 2017 Formula One calendar kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix live from Melbourne this weekend. With the gap seemingly closing between Mercedes and the rest, will we see a new leader of the pack?

Enhanced cars, a shock retirement and test times showing Mercedes has some real competition, this season is set to be the most adrenaline fueled fight to the finish yet.

With the shock retirement of world number 1 Nico Rosberg just days of taking out the title, his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton is the clear favourite. And if last season’s points are anything to go by, a tough competitor to beat.
  
Not since 1980 has Australia won a Formula One World Championship. Coming in third behind the Mercedes one-two last season, Daniel Riccardo is the strongest contender we’ve had since Mark Webber. Ricciardo had the second fastest test laps in Barcelona, so it will be interesting to see who fills the void with Roseberg out, come race time.

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A tough race ahead for McLaren’s two-time world Champion Fernando Alonso after major engine issues plagued the test drives in Barcelona, most notably, the first test where Alonso was sidelined after only the first lap. At the end of the tests in Barcelona, the McLaren team had completed the least amount of laps of all the teams, less than half of those completed by Mercedes and Ferrari. McLaren advise the engines have been recalibrated, but it is unknown how this will effect performance until the practice laps on Friday. Rumours have been denied by both teams that McLaren could be switching to Mercedes engines, leaving behind Honda.

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Significant changes to the cars are already pointing towards this being the fastest season yet. With wider chassis, improved aerodynamics, and even fatter tires than previous evolutions. These changes combine to produce greater downforce, resulting in faster corners for the cars. With all the tire drama of last season behind us, these changes are a great step forward for the fastest laps and reduced need to ‘save the tyres’, meaning the drivers can go full throttle for longer.

The results from testing have shown that the cars are faster and according to Mercedes’ Head of Sport, Toto Wolff, the gap between Mercedes and rivals has been significantly closed. A revitalised Ferrari have been their fastest yet ahead of Mercedes, with Red Bull and Williams proving their new cars are delivering, and are the first real threat since Mercedes three-year domination began.

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Don't miss the Australian Grand Prix. Practice rounds starting 10.30am AEST Friday on ONE and tenplay, Qualifying rounds starting 10.00am AEST Saturday on TEN and tenplay and the Grand Prix starting 10.00am AEST Sunday on TEN and tenplay