The 2019 Formula One season starts in Australia this weekend when Lewis Hamilton will be looking to win his sixth drivers’ title to move to within one of record holder Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton won his fifth title with two rounds to spare by stuttering over the line to finish fourth at the incident-packed Mexico Grand Prix.

After such an impressive season, it is no wonder that Hamilton is a heavy favourite in the F1 odds to win the title for a third successive year.

We have picked out eight of the contenders that will line up for the first race in Melbourne and what we can expect for the forthcoming season.

Lewis Hamilton

Odds: 6/5
World Championships: 5
Victories: 73
Team: Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton delivered the season of his life in 2018 to secure his fifth world championship with two rounds remaining, and following only minor regulation tweaks to the cars over the winter, Hamilton and his Mercedes team will start as the favourites to triumph once more.

Hamilton, 34, is the third oldest driver on the grid, yet has lost none of his enthusiasm, desire, and skillset.

He was almost unstoppable last year, and he will certainly start 2019 as the man to beat again.

Sebastian Vettel

Odds: 15/8
World Championships: 4
Victories: 52
Team: Ferrari

A series of mistakes by Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari thwarted his championship challenge last season despite the Italian team boasting an impressive car.

Vettel will be desperate to bounce back from his disappointing campaign – eradicating the errors which cost him so dearly last term – while Ferrari now have a new man in charge, Mattia Binotto replacing the sacked Maurizio Arrivabene.

Ferrari should be in a position to battle Mercedes, but whether Vettel can get the better of Hamilton over the course of 21 grands prix, remains an altogether different proposition.

Charles Leclerc

Odds: 9/2
World Championships: 0
Victories: 0
Team: Ferrari

Charles Leclerc was one of the stand-out performers on the grid last season, delivering a number of eye-catching displays in his rather modest Sauber machinery.

The young Monegasque, 21, earned his reward with a promotion to Ferrari, and he could be the surprise package in 2019.

Leclerc’s early promise suggests he has the potential to become a race winner and, in a Ferrari car which had the beating of Mercedes at times last year, don’t be surprised to see him ruffle Vettel’s feathers as the de facto number one with the Italian team.

Max Verstappen

Odds: 13/2
World Championships: 0
Victories: 5
Team: Red Bull

After an accident-heavy start to 2018, Max Verstappen proved his class with a second half of the season that was bettered only by Hamilton.

Following Daniel Ricciardo’s departure to Renault, Verstappen is now the clear number one at Red Bull.

The Dutchman’s team have ended their messy relationship with engine supplier Renault to team up with Honda. If the Japanese manufacturer can raise their game and provide Red Bull with a race-winning engine, expect Verstappen to be in title contention this year.

Valtteri Bottas

Odds: 25/1
World Championships: 0
Victories: 3
Team: Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas will want to forget 2018 in a hurry after failing to claim a single victory in a year where team-mate Hamilton won the drivers’ championship and Mercedes sealed the constructors’ title.

It is unthinkable that the Finn could go another 21 races without winning, but he will be under pressure from the outset, with the highly-rated Esteban Ocon breathing down his neck, having joined the Silver Arrows as a reserve driver for 2019.

Pierre Gasly

Odds: 50/1
World Championships: 0
Victories: 0
Team: Red Bull

Ricciardo’s surprise switch to Renault opened up a vacancy at Red Bull, promptly filled by Pierre Gasly.

In his first full season, the young Frenchman steadily impressed at Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, but moving from the midfield into a race-winning car this year will prove the ultimate test of his credentials.

Expect Gasly to be a steady peddler, but one unlikely to emerge from new team-mate Verstappen’s shadow.

Daniel Ricciardo

Odds: 80/1
World Championships: 0
Victories: 7
Team: Renault

Ricciardo’s move from Red Bull is a huge gamble and one which many expect to only hinder his career.

Red Bull had a car capable of challenging for victories last year, whereas Renault are yet to record a single podium since their return to the sport as a standalone constructor in 2016.

The French team, however, have shown signs of improvement, but their progress is unlikely to be enough for the likeable Ricciardo to challenge for victories, let alone the championship, this year.

Lando Norris

Odds: 750/1
World Championships: 0
Victories: 0
Team: Mclaren

Lando Norris will become the youngest British driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid for the season-opening race in Melbourne on Sunday. The Englishman, 19, has been handed his chance by McLaren after impressing in the junior categories. But, after spending his formative career fighting at the front, rookie Norris is likely to be thrust into the midfield with McLaren in the midst of the worst run in their long history.

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