Vettel knows Vestappen helped him beat Hamilton

The 29-year-old German beat the pre-race favourite by nearly 10 seconds, positioning Ferrari to challenge the dominance of Mercedes. Mercedes won 19 of the 21 F1 Global Positioning System in 2016, and Red Bull collected the other two titles. Valtteri Bottas finished his first race with the Silver Arrows down in third, yet the performance could not take the shine off Vettel's first race win for 18 months.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, with Verstappen fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Williams.

The 2007 F1 world champion is confident once Ferrari cures the understeer he is battling while using ultra-soft tyres he can cut down the deficit to Vettel and provide the Italian manufacturer with opportunities for 1-2 finishes.

"It's going to be physically and mentally demanding but as Sebastian said, racing the best is what Formula One is all about and ultimately makes you work that much harder, having to raise the bar and I'm looking forward to that".

"Right now it looks like we have equal machinery", Vettel said. I think this year we're seeing the best drivers at the top.

Hamilton had a tense relationship with Nico Rosberg in their duel for dominance at Mercedes, which has dominated the last three seasons.

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.

"We're now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race", Hamilton said.

"The fact we are similar pace-wise, means it's going to be a very hard slog this season", he said.

Things were further complicated for Hamilton when he found himself held up behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the restart and Vettel pulled away to open up a considerable lead and score his first win since Singapore in September, 2015.

If you haven't been paying attention, it may come as a surprise that Ferrari hasn't won a race since 2012 before Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. But this is just one race.

Lewis Hamilton believes his rivalry with Sebastian Vettel will see the "best against the best" going for this season's F1 title. It was Ferrari's first win in Australia since Raikkonen took the title in 2007.

"It is absolutely essential to remember that this is not the destination but the first step on a long road that must see us all focused on improving each and every day", he said.

The new rules didn't have a positive spin for all the previous champions in the field.

  • Julie Sanders