Will the duel between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen go into the next round? There are many unanswered questions about the Formula 1 return to Australia. Above all, Mercedes wants to make a big step forward in order not to lose all chances of winning the title early on.

The Formula 1 season is finally starting for Sebastian Vettel as well. The former world champion is ready to race again after his Corona forced break and can be present in Sunday’s race in Melbourne, Australia. 2019 was the last time the race was held in the metropolis, since when Corona has prevented two Grand Prix from being staged. The favourites to win, however, are different than before the pandemic three years ago.

Will there be the next duel between Verstappen and Leclerc?

That is to be expected. World champion Max Verstappen last won in Jeddah in a thrilling battle against Charles Leclerc, who in turn triumphed at the season opener in the Bahrain desert after the Dutchman had retired. Ferrari driver Leclerc (45 points) leads the World Championship standings ahead of his Spanish stable rival Carlos Sainz (33) and Verstappen in the Red Bull (25). No one seems to be able to compete with the two leading teams over a race distance at the moment. “I hope we can have a relaxed weekend as a team,” said Verstappen, who is looking forward to the rebuilt track: “There should be more opportunities to overtake. That’s positive.”

What’s in it for Sebastian Vettel in the first race of the season?

He feels like he is “late for school” ahead of his late start to the season, the four-time champion said in a statement from his Aston Martin racing team. The 34-year-old Hessian had missed the first two rounds of the season because of an infection with the coronavirus. Without Vettel, the team has had nothing to do with scoring World Championship points so far. Team-mate Lance Stroll and substitute Nico H├╝lkenberg had missed out on the top ten. The English carmaker is currently at the back of the field with Williams. “I’m looking forward to getting going again,” Vettel said nonetheless. But a quick, sustainable improvement is not in sight.

How did Mick Schumacher survive his serious accident?

The 23-year-old arrived in Australia fit and in good spirits. After a visit to the zoo in memory of the legendary “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, all concentration is on the Grand Prix. His violent qualifying accident, which caused Schumacher to miss the race in Saudi Arabia, has been dealt with and the son of record world champion Michael Schumacher is fit again. Schumacher had crashed heavily into the track barrier, and his decision not to start was also a precautionary measure. Team-mate Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, scored two championship points in the Haas race car. Now Schumacher finally wants to do that. It would be the first points ever for him.

Can Lewis Hamilton make a comeback at the front in Australia?

Melbourne has never been the seven-time world champion’s favourite circuit – the Briton has only won twice so far. Before the start, there is little to suggest that a third will follow. Mercedes is still too far away from the top and not in the form that brought them to win the Constructors’ World Championship in the past eight years. Hamilton sees a lot of work ahead for his team, with the 37-year-old finishing only tenth in Saudi Arabia last time out and also unable to fend off the Haas race cars on track. In Australia, there could be the first technical improvements to the Silver Arrow. To what extent these will be enough to really attack again remains to be seen.