Sebastian Vettel won a thrilling duel with world champion Lewis Hamilton to steal the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne today.
The four-time world champion got the jump on the Mercedes ace off a miscalculation on the pit stop under Virtual Safety Car conditions and held off Hamilton for his second straight win in Melbourne and third overall.
Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen held off Australian Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo to take third and join Vettel on the podium.
“Nice one, nice one altogether,” Vettel said jubilantly over team radio.
“We’re getting there. We still have some work to do, but we’re getting there.”
It was Vettel’s 48th win in his 200th GP and follows his earlier wins in Melbourne in 2011 for Red Bull and last year for Ferrari.
Hamilton, starting off the pole, got out his car and looked a bit bewildered as he removed his helmet, wondering how exactly that race got away from him.
Vettel pitted for a new set of softs and emerged from the pits ahead of Hamilton, gaining around 10 seconds thanks to the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car (VSC).
“What just happened guys? Was that my mistake?” Hamilton said on team radio as a full-on safety car was sent out as the marshals struggled to remove the stranded Haas car of Romain Grosjean.
“We thought we were safe, but there’s obviously something wrong,” the team told Hamilton.
Mercedes potentially miscalculated the VSC minimum speed during the phase Vettel claimed the lead.
Vettel retained his lead as the race was restarted and built a lead of seven-tenths of a second over Hamilton mid-race.
Hamilton made an error as he locked up at turn nine and fell 2.8 seconds behind Vettel with 11 laps remaining.
Vettel proved too resilient and held on as Hamilton backed off over the final laps realising he could not catch the flying German.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was fifth in his McLaren ahead of Red Bull`s young Dutchman Max Verstappen.
1. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari 58 laps, 1hr 29m 33.283s
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +5.036s
3. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Scuderia Ferrari +6.309s
4. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +7.069s
5. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren F1 Team +27.886s
6. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +28.945s
7. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault Sport Formula One Team +32.671s
8. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +34.339s
9. Stoffel Vandoorne BEL McLaren F1 Team +34.921s
10. Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP Renault Sport Formula One Team +45.722s
11. Sergio Perez MEX Sahara Force India F1 Team +46.817s
12. Esteban Ocon FRA Sahara Force India F1 Team +1m 00.278s
13. Charles Leclerc MON Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team +1m 15.759s
14. Lance Stroll CAN Williams Martini Racing +1m 18.288s
15. Brendon Hartley NZL Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda +1 lap
Did not finish
Romain Grosjean FRA Haas F1 Team 24 laps
Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team 22 laps
Pierre Gasly FRA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 13 laps
Sergey Sirotkin RUS Williams Martini Racing 5 laps
Marcus Ericsson SWE Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team 4 laps