Hamilton second as Ferrari dominates opener

The outcome raised hopes of a genuine title tussle between the two dominant Formula One drivers of the past decade.

Hamilton said such respect was mutual, and that it was an honour to potentially square off against the four-time champion for silverware this year.

"It is going to be a hard slog this season and it is going to be physically and mentally demanding", said Hamilton, who with a tally of career 53 Grand Prix wins, is second in the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher (91 victories). Racing against Ferrari is exciting for the fans and a new challenge for us,"Wolff added".

"You are seeing the best against the best", he told reporters. It's been a privilege to be racing in an era with him and now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race. It's great to see people smiling.

Vettel was equally complimentary. The Shanghai International Circuit will see harder tyres and longer straights, a combination that usually suits Mercedes.

Fulfilling the promise they had displayed during winter testing, Ferrari claimed their first victory in nearly two years when Vettel triumphed at Albert Park ahead of Hamilton.

This proved to be decisive as Hamilton lost time behind the Red Bull. Vettel eventually pulled in for fresh tyres, emerging just ahead of the Red Bull and lead Mercedes.

"At the start I wasn't entirely happy".

Hamilton explained after the race that he made a decision to come in early due to his tire concerns, believing that Vettel would have overtaken him anyway.

Ferrari seems to think it's a fair match. This is a start, starting with the podium and if we improve on this I look forward to the next few races.

After shadowing polesitter Hamilton throughout the race's opening stages, Vettel leapfrogged the silver vehicle at the first round of stops.

"Yesterday we suffered a bit with understeer on the auto and it was a similar story on the first set of tyres", Raikkonen said after the race. The British driver sounded a note of caution that, as he had feared, one of the effects of the changes introduced for this season has made overtaking more hard.

Although he has three World titles to his name, Lewis Hamilton's hunger to win another has "frickin doubled" especially after losing the crown past year. Only Britain's Jenson Button, in 2009, and Germany's Rosberg last season interrupted their success.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel - New rivals?

  • Salvatore Jensen