F1 Raceweek: Hamilton prepares to begin title defence in Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton's bid for a fifth Formula One drivers' world title begins in Melbourne at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Formula One is back and, as is traditional, Melbourne plays host to the season opener this weekend.
The Australian Grand Prix marks the first step in Lewis Hamilton's title defence as the Mercedes driver looks to become only the third man to win five championships.
Hamilton has only won twice at Albert Park - in 2008 and 2015 - but has been a machine in qualifying, and one more Australian pole this week would see him surpass Ayrton Senna's record of six.
The Briton was beaten by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel - another man chasing his fifth drivers' crown - in this race last year, a result which hinted at an epic title battle that, in reality, eventually petered out to a comfortable Hamilton triumph.
Most eyes will be on Ferrari and Red Bull over the course of the week to see if Mercedes' closest challengers can close the gap on the sport's dominant force.
In particular, Red Bull will be keen to lay down a marker to show that they can be part of the title mix this season.
But there is also plenty of interest further down the field, where McLaren's post-Honda future will begin to take shape following their switch to Renault, whose own factory team are tipped to make strides in 2018.
TALK OF THE PADDOCK
Much of the focus this week will be on how the teams adapt to regulation changes.
Pre-season testing gave the drivers an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new Halo head protection system, but it remains to be seen what, if any, impact it will have on qualifying and the race.
Two new compounds have been added to the tyre line-up for 2018, although neither will be present in Melbourne, where soft, supersoft and ultrasoft will be on show - ultrasoft proving the most popular choice.
Sergey Sirotkin and Charles Leclerc are the only drivers without any F1 race experience on the grid, so they will be keen to swiftly begin to repay the faith shown in them by Williams and Sauber respectively.
RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)
No Australian driver has ever won or been on pole position in the history of the race.
2017: Sebastian Vettel
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton
Toto Wolff: "We will tackle this new season with the same dedication, team spirit and energy that has made us strong in the past. Each of us has the mindset that last year's Championships belong in the past; yesterday's trophies don't win today's games.”#F1 #DrivenByEachOther pic.twitter.com/9j46gnGh5h— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 19, 2018