Lewis Hamilton 'grateful' to have chance to fight Sebastian Vettel

Britain's Lewis Hamilton says he is confident he can beat Sebastian Vettel to the world title this year despite defeat at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Brit was in pole for the season opener in Melbourne today but was forced to settle for second place on the podium after the German raced home with a 10-second advantage. "It's going to be close.it's great to see Ferrari there".

"It's good we had this close battle". "I don't know how you expect me to do that", Hamilton responded. At the start, Lewis Hamilton led and looked solid, edging ahead, gaining here, losing there. But all things in perspective.

"That was obviously crucial for our race, I tried to push for as hard as I could for the one or two Max was still out to open a bit of a gap and control the race".

"Even if we won all those races and it looked like it was easy or it was clear it wasn't", Wolff added. "That makes me work harder, I haven't this weekend felt any negatives on myself, it's only good for me to think of my weaknesses and strengths".

After three years of Mercedes dominance, Vettel triumphing at a sun-bathed Albert Park, in front of a near 100,000 crowd, is precisely what the sport and its new owners, Liberty Media, will have desired.

"It is March now".

"It shows we're going to have a race on our hands, which we're happy to have".

By the time Verstappen made his pit stop and released a frustrated - but impotent - Hamilton, Vettel was out of sight, and Hamilton's new team mate Valtteri Bottas was close behind.

Both Hamilton and Vettel had spent the build-up to the season endorsing each other's title bid - but initially it was Ferrari who would set the pace Down Under.

"This year you are seeing the best against the best with the best drivers at the top", enthused Hamilton.

"Obviously it would be great to have Fernando [Alonso] up there, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon".

"I'm really grateful to have that fight with him, against Ferrari".

Over the past three years, triple world champion Hamilton has had only his teammate, the now-retired 2016 title victor Nico Rosberg, and reliability to worry about with Mercedes winning 51 of 59 races up to Melbourne. I only stopped a lap earlier than my normal target. I had nothing left in my tyres.

Vettel was able to pit and come back out ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton, immediately forging a buffer that would sustain until the end of the race. "I said to the team I had to come in because the tyres were dead".

  • Leroy Wright