Hamilton: We've got a race on our hands

Hamilton added: "We've got a race on our hands".

"In Australia, there is a lot of Italian support and to have the team not challenging, let alone winning, would have been a huge disappointment for Ferrari and Ferrari fans around the world, so it's the best possible start for them really". There is a great amount of respect there between us and I am sure it will continue to grow.

Hamilton described it as "a privilege to be racing" at the same time as Vettel and hoped it would be possible to fight wheel-to-wheel this year.

The race was decided in the pit lanes, with Mercedes opting for a risky strategy by having Hamilton come in early on lap 17 with a clear lead ahead of Vettel in second.

Hamilton's Mercedes team have dominated F1 for the past three years and it was hoped the changes would make the grid more competitive and the win for Vettel and Ferrari delivered that in the first race.

"I'm not anxious about that, I think like I said in general in the weekend overall, although at times I feel it wasn't ideal, but I think it was a decent start with the team and the new age for me and my career.

It was a great race, I enjoyed it", Vettel said in a podium interview with former Red Bull team mate Mark Webber. It is a lot of fun to race for victories and a lot of fun to race against the best.

Ferrari head the constructors' stakes with 37 points to Mercedes' 33, as Red Bull have 10, Williams eight, Force India seven and Toro Rosso six. "We were pushing flat out but were not able to pull away", he said. And now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race. I think it's going to be a big challenge, we need to work really hard if we want to beat (Ferrari).

The British racer came up short against the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who clinched his first race win since 2015.

Hamilton replied: "I don't know how you expect me to do that".

"Firstly a big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian - they did an incredible job this weekend. Sebastian is a well-deserved race victor".

Hamilton: "I'm going to get you back!"

Television footage cut to a furious Wolff thumping his fist on a desk inside the Mercedes garage after Vettel emerged ahead of Hamilton following the only round of pit stops. We stayed out, the tyres were still holding on and the pace looked alright.

  • Leroy Wright