Lewis Hamilton takes pole position ahead of Australian Grand Prix

The German won by nearly 10 seconds from the Briton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit. They still do a bit, but now you can keep pushing and with the harder tyres there is hardly any degradation so it's really good fun.

Ferrari were simply quicker in Melbourne and the world champions were forced into a position where they had to make a decision that did not work out.

Last year Ferrari lost this race through poor strategy; this time there was no way they were going to let a crucially psychological victory slip away once they had their hands on it.

Vettel said he enjoyed being able to push throughout the opening stint, despite doing 23 laps on ultra-soft tyres.

"I think, like you said, it's what we needed". That's why I'm happy. "There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic".

Finland's Bottas, who grabbed a podium place in his first race for Mercedes, said: "It is going to be a big challenge from Ferrari".

Mercedes won 19 of the 21 Global Positioning System last season, and Red Bull won the other two.

After his own tire-change, Vettel re-entered the race with ideal timing, sneaking in front of Verstappen and Hamilton before forging ahead to close out a dominant win. Having stopped so early, I may not have made it to the end of the race.

Vettel's 2007 championship-winning team mate Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen one behind.

It just went from bad to worse for the amiable Red Bull driver who crashed in qualifying, copped a grid penalty, started the race from pit lane, before his auto stopped on lap 29 of his 58-lap home GP.

Hamilton said he made the call to stop earlier, because he feared Vettel was about to pass him on track as the Mercedes struggled for grip.

Not classified: 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. Both cars continued on in the race.

Hamilton started in pole but Vettel had an advantage on pace and tyre wear.

Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to victory in Australia by 9.9s after taking the lead during the pit-stops midway through the race. "I believe I can win and I want to win for the team and the fans".

"Sorry mate - the car's done", the Red Bull team told the disconsolate Australian over the radio. At times his lead fluctuated as he lapped slow cars, but from the moment he went ahead he never looked remotely like losing.

Vettel, who now has 43 race wins compared to Hamilton's 53, agrees.

  • Leroy Wright