The new F1 season kicks off this weekend, and it's a tricky one to call, writes Unibet columnist Keith Collantine...
"To finish first, you must first finish." It's motor racing's great aphorism, and it is likely to ring true for many of the Formula One teams and drivers this weekend.
A new day has dawned in F1, and we are just days away from seeing the first race with some radically different new racing cars.
It represents the biggest challenge F1's engineers have faced in decades. The tried-and-trusted V8 engines of the last eight seasons have been replaced with new and dauntingly complex petrol-electric hybrids.
At least one doom-monger has raised the possibility of no cars making it to the chequered flag in Sunday's race. That seems a little overblown, but the general expectation is we'll see cars breaking down with far greater regularity than in recent seasons.
Last year on average just three cars broke down in every two races. Expect that rate to be considerably higher this year. Some of the cars on the grid in Melbourne haven't completed a grand prix distance without an interruption yet.
For those wanting to take a punt on the first race of the season this means two things: Hedge your bets in favour of the cars which have run reliably in testing, and lean towards the more experienced and intelligent drivers who know how to look after a racing car while wringing fast laps out of it.
Mercedes face competition
It's no secret Mercedes have looked good in testing. The W05 was the first car to hit the track on day one and it's covered more ground than anything else. And in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg they have a pair of proven race winners. They're favourites for victory in Melbourne, with odds of 2.85 and 5.00 respectively.
But while much of the pre-season talk has centred around Mercedes, Ferrari have been quietly taking care of their own business. The F14 T has rarely been at the top of the times sheets, but it has run about as reliably as anything else out there, and that could make the difference on Sunday.
In Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen they undoubtedly have their strongest driver line-up in years. Not just two world champions, but a pair of the smartest, sharpest and savviest racers on the track. The new engines have thrown a daunting array of new variables at the teams. This challenge calls for the sort of cool intelligence Alonso and Raikkoenn have in abundance. At 9.00 for Alonso and 12.00 for Raikkonen to win, they look like very good value indeed.
Williams pair offer best value
But the best value drivers on offer this weekend have to be the Williams pair. It may seem a leap of faith to suggest the team which finished third from bottom last year, could be race-winners on Sunday, but there's more to this team's transformation than a snazzy new livery. A strengthened technical team, the arrival of Felipe Massa from Ferrari and, above all, a switch to Mercedes' engines, looks to have put them among the potential race winners.
Eleven-times race winner Massa is on at 12.00 to win. Team mate Valtteri Bottas - a wise head on young shoulders if ever you saw one, and very fast too - offers 15.00 for a maiden grand prix victory.
Both are on longer odds to win than world champion Sebastian Vettel, at 10.00. But though Vettel may have won the last nine races in a row, Red Bull are in dire trouble with their new RB10, which repeatedly broke down during testing. A points finish might be possible, but Vettel knows as well as anyone that "to finish first, you must first finish..."
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.
Read Keith's F1 season preview.