Sebastian Vettel produced an impressive display to win the season opening Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 ushered in a new era at Albert Park.
The Ferrari driver made the most of a longer first stint to jump early leader Lewis Hamilton which paved the way for an impressive victory for the Maranello team.
Vettel’s triumph was Ferrari’s first win since the Singapore Grand Prix in 2015 as the four-time world champion led the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to the chequered flag.
“(The championship fight) is a long, long way ahead,” said Vettel.
“For now we are just over the moon, just happy. It has been a hard winter and an incredible race today.”
Hamilton had been in the box seat after a strong start in his pole-sitting Mercedes but the complexion of the race changed after his first stop on lap 17.
The Brit rejoined behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who proved a challenge to pass despite his best efforts.
Hamilton lost valuable track time behind the Dutchman which ultimately cost him the lead.
The time spent behind Verstappen saw Hamilton extract the best from his soft tyres allowing leader Vettel to scamper away at the front.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen endured a quiet race to finish fourth ahead of Verstappen, who was the only Red Bull to make the finish.
He joined the race two laps down before eventually retiring with an engine drama on lap 28.
Felipe Massa managed to bring his Williams home in sixth in front of Force India’s Sergio Perez and the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.
Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 on his debut for Force India.
The Frenchman finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Antonio Giovinazzi – who made his maiden F1 start for Sauber – while Stoffel Vandoorne brought his McLaren home in 13th position.
Just 13 drivers managed to reach the chequered flag in what proved to be a race of attrition for the sport’s fastest ever cars.
Fernando Alonso headed the list of retirements that included Jolyon Palmer (Renault), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Romain Grosjean (Haas F1) and Lance Stroll (Williams).
Result: Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||57 laps|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||28.827|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1 lap|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1 lap|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1 lap|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1 lap|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||1 lap|
|12||Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber||2 laps|
|13||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||2 laps|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
Points: Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
|5||Max Verstappen||NED||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||10|
|6||Felipe Massa||BRA||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||8|
|7||Sergio Perez||MEX||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||6|
|8||Carlos Sainz||ESP||TORO ROSSO||4|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||TORO ROSSO||2|
|10||Esteban Ocon||FRA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1|
|12||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||SAUBER FERRARI||0|
|13||Stoffel Vandoorne||BEL||MCLAREN HONDA||0|