Australian Grand Prix predictions, verdict and suggested bets: Ferrari star to get on podium

Formula 1 is Down Under in Australia this weekend and Planet Sport believes Ferrari's Charles Leclerc can get on the podium, with Lando Norris in the hunt for McLaren's first points of the season.

What happened last time out?

Sergio Perez led home a Red Bull one-two in Jeddah, with defending champion Max Verstappen playing second fiddle for once.

Fernando Alonso caught the eye in his Aston Martin once again, while the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton showed they are going to give Ferrari a good fight this season.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix top 10

1 Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 25 points

2 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 19 points (fastest lap)

3 Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, 15

4 George Russell, Mercedes, 12

5 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 10

6 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 8

7 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 6

8 Esteban Ocon, Alpine, 4

9 Pierre Gasly, Alpine, 2

10 Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1

What's happening on the track?

Alonso clocked the fastest time in Friday's rain-hit second practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

Championship leader Verstappen set the pace from Hamilton in the earlier dry running at Melbourne's Albert Park.

But it was Alonso who ended the day on top after he went fastest in his Aston Martin before heavy rain arrived 10 minutes into the one-hour session.

The double world champion, 41, who completed only 13 laps, finished four tenths clear of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was third, six tenths back, with Russell fourth for Mercedes. Hamilton finished 13th, 1.4sec adrift, after he failed to post a clean lap with the slick rubber.

What's happening off the track?

Red Bull driver Perez said he has patched up his differences with title rival Max Verstappen's father following his victory snub in Saudi Arabia.

Perez heads into the third round of the season in Melbourne just one point behind his team-mate in the standings, and is effectively Verstappen's sole championship challenger given the dominance of Red Bull's machinery this season.

A fortnight ago in Jeddah, Jos Verstappen sparked a social media storm when he kept a straight face and failed to offer a congratulatory handshake to Perez as the Mexican celebrated with his Red Bull mechanics.

Max Verstappen finished runner-up to Perez after he started 15th following a driveshaft failure in qualifying.

The footage portrayed a divided Red Bull camp, but Perez insisted: "I have a good relationship with Jos. We respect each other. We know this is sport, and that is how we treat it.

"We shook hands but they probably didn't show that. I saw a few things were written on social media, but sometimes people like to create stories that don't exist.

"He wasn't smiling much but you don't have to smile every day and all the time.

"I drive cars, I work hard with my team but I have a life out of the sport and once I am out of this paddock I am totally out of this environment. It is important to be able to disconnect because it is a waste of time if you keep tracking all the rumours."

Suggested bets and predictions for Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc podium finish

It has been all doom and gloom at Ferrari so far this season with Red Bull on another planet when it comes to race pace.

However, Charles Leclerc showed in Jeddah that the Scuderia are still a threat in qualifying trim and it would not be a surprise if he was able to split the two Red Bull cars on the starting grid.

With Albert Park a difficult track to overtake on, even with the introduction of a fourth DRS zone, a lofty starting position for Leclerc will give him all the confidence he needs to end Fernando Alonso's podium streak.

Max Verstappen fastest lap

With Red Bull so far clear of their rivals, you can expect Verstappen to be a very short price to win races this season even with any potential grid penalties attached.

A better way to back the two-time World Champion will be in the fastest lap market, with the battle for the extra point each race weekend a lot more competitive than the fight for P1 which will lead to chunkier prices.

Verstappen is absolutely relentless in his quest for points, as seen in Jeddah when he stole the fastest lap point away from team-mate Perez on the very last lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It will be a much more appealing price to back him to grab another bonus point in Melbourne as he looks to race clear in the World Championship standings.

Lando Norris points finish

McLaren are yet to score a single point so far this season, but that shouldn't put you off Lando Norris ending that streak in Melbourne.

There is no question that McLaren have taken a step backwards this year, yet the MCL60 is still a car capable of picking up points.

All eyes will be on home favourite Oscar Piastri this weekend but Albert Park is a very unforgiving track and experience will be key.

Piastri has very little on-track knowledge of Albert Park, despite it being his home race, so Norris gets the vote to be the one to kick-start McLaren's season with a few points in the bag.

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