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WGM’s weekend preview

Written by Ben Blaschke

It feels like an eternity since Sebastian Vettel won his fourth consecutive Formula 1 world title but the wait for the new season is finally over with the first Grand Prix of 2014 taking place this weekend. The Australian GP at Melbourne’s Albert Park has been the season opening event for the past 18 years, with the exception of 2006 and 2010, and this year’s race is as eagerly anticipated as any.

Why? Because if pre-season testing is anything to go by then Red Bull’s dominance of F1 could be about to come to an end. By far the quickest times recorded in Bahrain over the off-season were almost universally produced by Mercedes-powered cars. The Mercedes factory team of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been particularly quick and the bookies have them as early favorites for the Australian GP. Williams, Force India and McLaren – the other teams using Mercedes engines – have also looked good with Williams’ Felipe Massa another to keep an eye on.

Could Mercedes be the team to beat in 2014?

Could Mercedes be the team to beat in 2014?

In contrast, Red Bull has endured a horror pre-season with constant car problems severely limiting their testing and their best lap times well below the Mercedes teams. That’s not to say they should be written off just yet. At various times, when the car has actually worked long enough, they’ve shown glimpses of speed, but time will tell whether they can get it all working well enough to compete for the title yet again.

As for Ferrari, they had an up and down time of it during testing, struggling early on before Fernando Alonso suddenly picked up the pace on the final day. It’s too early to tell how all of this will translate into genuine race pace but we can’t wait to see if the new engine specifications introduced this year really do shake up the balance of power.

Alexandr Dolgopolov knocked Rafael Nadal out in Indian Wells this week

Alexandr Dolgopolov knocked Rafael Nadal out in Indian Wells this week

The ATP event in Indian Wells reaches its conclusion this weekend with some interesting results in recent days. The shock elimination of Rafael Nadal at the hands of Alexandr Dolgopolov has opened the draw up heading into the quarter finals although there are still plenty of big names in contention including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw has also seen some big name casualties with Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic, Luci Safarova and Sara Errani all third round casualties, while those looking strong include China’s Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska.

And the AFL season kicks off in Australia with a Friday night blockbuster between Collingwood and Fremantle at the MCG. Fremantle are a great chance of winning the flag in 2014 but this is a tough way to start the season against the 2010 Premiers. The opening round of the year is split across two weekends with only three games this weekend. The Sydney Swans should be far too good for GWS in the Sydney derby while Richmond will be hoping to build on their promising 2013 with a win over the Gold Coast.

Good luck and good punting.