Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen are two of the main contenders in the Formula One title race, which begins at the Melbourne Grand Prix this weekend. Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters

It’s an early wake-up call for the petrol heads this weekend.

Formula 1 is on at the crack of dawn. Tomorrow morning bright and early, the race will be under way out of Melbourne, with new cabs and team pairings.

This 2019 season opener marks the beginning of Lewis Hamilton’s quest of getting a hat-trick of championships and six overall.

And the Mercedes team leader is the favourite at 15/10 for the driver’s championship.

Close behind is Ferrari’s Seb Vettel at 17/10, new teammate Charles LeClerc at 9/2 and Max Verstappen from Red Bull at 10/1.

Even though Lewis is quite short on the outright price for the championship, it may be the best odds you will get this season, especially if he wins tomorrow.

So, back Lewis nice and early.

In the practice rounds, he showed some good form, but I suspect Ferrari may be hiding some extra speed.

Look out for an entertaining first-up race, where I’d say go for Hamilton, who is good value at 15/10 for the win. Alternatively, put in Max V for a podium position, priced at 11/10.

From the speedy circuit in Melbourne to the speedy greens of TPC Sawgrass.

The strongest field in golf is gathered in the Sunshine State of Florida, for The Player’s Championship.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson put himself in contention early on, along with European Ryder Cup stars Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood.

And write off Tiger Woods at your peril. With a slight tweak to his putting stroke, I tip another major for him this year.

In rugby, it’s the last round of the Six Nations. The Grand Slam is up for grabs for Wales, but the Irish will be hoping to spoil the party.

An upset will open the door for England.

England host Scotland, and the home team should win, but the visitors should be good enough to defend their +19 point handicap.

In the mammoth title decider, I’m very wary. Up to now, I was convinced Wales would go all the way, since they upset England.

However, I’m leaning towards Ireland spoiling the party, and ending the unbeaten record of the Welsh.

In Super Rugby, all three games should be high-scoring and could go either way.

The local game is between the Lions and the Rebels, who are both high-intensity running sides.

The Rebels are a strong team, with their reunited half-back pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia, but the Lions are tough to beat at home. Go over 59 points at 8/10, as it’s the safest bet.

On the football front, the games are all over the place, locally and abroad.

The PSL’s top two teams are not playing this weekend, and in England, the FA Cup quarter-finals are on the go. This gives the chasing teams a chance to make up some ground in the league.

The bulk of the PSL games were played last night, with this afternoon’s only fixture being Free State Stars at home to AmaZulu.

AmaZulu have struggled to win in the Free State previously, where goals have been scarce. I suspect goals may be hard to come by once again in the Bloem heat, but I say Usuthu will unite.

AmaZulu desperately need three points to stay away from relegation, and keep in touch with the top eight in the league.

In the FA Cup, there are six Premiership sides featuring out of eight finalists. Wolves at home to Manchester United is the main attraction. The visiting team are favourites at 12/10, with the home team priced at 22/10.

The safest bets here would be “both teams to score”, which are priced at 11/10.

The other games should see Man City and Brighton both win away, whereas the Watford-Palace game is a tricky call.

I’m backing Watford to win at home, and my Hail Mary call is Wolves to upset United, by winning or forcing a second leg.

In tennis, it’s the star-studded Indian Wells tournament, and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are expected to face off later tonight in the semi-finals. The winner here should determine the overall champion, and Fed is my call.

Sangoma yabaleka, I’m out!


Independent on Saturday

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