Red Bull start their defence of world titles

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SEBASTIAN Vettel and the Milton Keynes-based Red Bull Racing team begin the defence of their Formula 1 world championships this weekend as the season gets under way in Australia.

The 2010 and 2011 title winner takes to the grid alongside Aussie team-mate Mark Webber in the Tilbrook-made RB8 car.

After three pre-season testing sessions, it is so far unclear who will lead the way in Melbourne on Sunday, with many teams hiding their true pace, not willing to give anything away before the opening weekend of the 2012 season.

However, Red Bull and Vettel are favourites to take victory in the opening round, though rivals McLaren and their partnership of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are expected to mount a serious threat to their crowns in the nine months ahead.

There is an added incentive to do well for Webber this weekend too, as he races in his 11th home Grand Prix, and looks to improve on the luck he has had there in recent years.

Melbourne hasn’t been a very happy hunting ground for the Australian since his first race back in 2002. After delighting his compatriots on his debut by taking a remarkable fifth place in his unfancied Minardi, he has failed to improve on his highest finish on home soil, retiring on three occasions.

Team-mate Vettel, however, has fared better around the fast street circuit, winning last time out on the way to his record breaking 2011 championship title success.

And while the opening round is one of 20 races, it could set the tone for the rest of the season.