Formula One: BBC’s Edwards backs Hamilton, 
but says Vettel is the man to beat

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Norfolk-based BBC Formula One commentator Ben Edwards expects to describe a Lewis Hamilton win ahead of this Sunday’s season opener in Australia.

The British driver’s move from McLaren to Mercedes raised a few eyebrows in the paddock, but Edwards believes the German team can be competitive with the Stevenage-born racer at the wheel.

With the usual pre-season mind games over, Edwards is looking forward to finding out who will be at the front come the end of Sunday’s race at Albert Park.

“Everyone loves going to Melbourne,” said Edwards, who lives in Wortham, just off the A143 between Bury St Edmunds and Diss. “You have great weather to look forward too and the atmosphere is good — it’s very sociable.

“It’s nice to be starting a second season because you feel that bit more at ease and comfortable with your surroundings.

“There is still a sense of excitement of starting a new season, but a bit more confidence.

“Everyone is dying to know what the season is going to bring — you can’t learn everything from Australia, but you get an indication of who is going to be up there for the first few races of the season.”

With the first four events away from Europe, there is little opportunity to improve the car so anybody off the pace early on — as Ferrari were in 2012 — may find it difficult to recover in the title race.

The Barcelona event on May 10, 11 and 12 — which will also herald the debut of Mickfield-based racer Josh Webster in the GP3 support race — is the first chance for the teams to make major upgrades and begin the development race that will only end once the chequered flag falls at the season-ending Brazilian GP on November 24.

There are 1,131 laps of action to be completed between now and then, with Edwards predicting another close battle between reigning three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and double winner Fernando Alonso, as well as the McLaren of Jenson Button and Mercedes of Hamilton.

He said: “Ferrari will be very competitive throughout the year and better off at the beginning than they were last year, but my feeling is that ultimately Red Bull will come out on top.

“The regulations are relatively unchanged and although they didn’t start with the best car last year, they ended up with it.

“Since the second half of 2009 when the current set of regulations came in, Red Bull have had the best driver/car combination with Vettel.

“I think Alonso will be a major threat and Red Bull respect him and what he has done.

“They will see him as the biggest challenge to their title, but possibly Jenson as well if McLaren can be more consistent.”

Although Edwards — who will once again be joined in the commentary box by David Coulthard — does not think Hamilton can win the title in 2013, he does believe the 2008 world champion can keep up his record of winning a race in every season since making his debut in 2007.

“Mercedes have obviously made some improvements, but they are not quite there across the board on all the different tracks,” added Edwards. “They are clearly making a big push because they wouldn’t have signed Lewis otherwise.”

As well as anticipating another close championship battle to match the thrills and spills of last year, Edwards is looking forward to seeing how the rookies get on, including Brit Max Chilton.

The youngster became the fourth British driver currently in F1 when he signed for Marussia and it will see Edwards reunited with the Chilton family having spent years commentating on Max’s brother Tom in the British Touring Car Championship.