Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix ahead of the Mercedes-GP cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The four-time world champion put on an impressive display of speed and tactical awareness to illustrate Ferrari’s credentials as genuine championship contenders.
It had been Hamilton who had led the opening laps in Melbourne, but the Briton complained regularly on the pit radio about the lack of grip he was getting from his Pirelli tyres, with Vettel content to sit never more than two seconds adrift.
■ Comment: Vettel right to be positive after qualifying
■ Predictions: Sebastian Vettel to win world title
Mercedes brought in Hamilton after only 17 laps of the 57-lap race, but he then lost time behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing car, who was yet to pit, allowing Vettel to open up an advantage in the extra eight laps he stayed out ahead of the Mercedes before pitting.
Hamilton had no answer to Vettel’s pace after the pit stops and he was 10 seconds adrift by the end, with Bottas in third.
The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, with Verstappen fifth and the Williams of Felipe Massa completing the top six.
It was Ferrari’s first win in Melbourne since Raikkonen’s victory in 2007 and Vettel’s second in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.
It was also a major fillip for the 2017 season and the new generation of quicker cars after Ferrari’s superior pre-season test times as they chase their first world constructors’ title since 2008.
It was the German four-time world champion’s fourth win for Ferrari and his first since Singapore in 2015 and his 43rd career win.
“A title challenge is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon at the start we have made here today,” Vettel said.
“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheel spin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight.
“There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.”
“A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian,” Hamilton said.
“In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls but that’s just the way it goes.”
Results from the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, on Sunday:
1. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 302.000km at 1hr 24min 11.670 sec
(average speed 215.409 kph)
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) at 9.975
3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) at 11.250
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) at 22.393
5. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) at 28.827
6. Felipe Massa (BRA/Williams) at 1:23.386
7. Sergio Perez (MEX/Force India) at 1 lap
8. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Toro Rosso) at 1 lap
9. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso) at 1 lap
10. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) at 1 lap
11. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Renault) at 1 lap
12. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Sauber) at 2 laps
13. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) at 2 laps
Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren) retired 50 laps
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) retired 46 laps
Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) retired 40 laps
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) retired 25 laps
Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) retired 21 laps
Jolyon Palmer (GBR/Renault) retired 15 laps
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) retired 13 laps
Overall standings after one race:
1. Vettel 25 pts
2. Hamilton 18
3. Bottas 15
4. Raikkonen 12
5. Verstappen 10
6. Massa 8
7. Perez 6
8. Sainz Jr 4
9. Kvyat 2
10. Ocon 1
1. Ferrari 37 pts
2. Mercedes 33
3. Red Bull 10
4. Williams 8
5. Force India 7
6. Toro Rosso 6
* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse
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