Sebastian Vettel started the new F1 season with a win as he saw off defending champion Lewis Hamilton. The German started on the second row in Melbourne, but took advantage at a key moment and never looked back.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drew first blood in the new F1 season when he beat Lewis Hamilton for victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, with a little help from the virtual safety car.
Defending champion Hamilton had led the way from pole in his Mercedes but had already pitted when the virtual safety car was deployed after an accident further down the field.
"We got a bit lucky but we will take it," Vettel said. "We're not yet where we want to be, I don't quite feel the car, but it gives us a good start, good wind and fresh motivation for the coming weeks."
Vettel pitted for fresh tires and emerged ahead of the Briton as he held on in thrilling fashion to claim his his 48th career win and 100th podium finish in his 200th grand prix.
Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari finished second and third, giving the Scuderia a strong start in the new campaign as they make another attempt to win a first Formula One constructor's title since 2007.
As it happened:
SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX!
Lap 58/58 Vettel's lead is now 4.4 seconds and the German is heading for victory!
Lap 55/58 Hamilton suddenly puts in a slow lap at the worst possible moment, 1.3 seconds slower than Vettel. Is Hamilton done?
Lap 54/58 Hamilton closes to within 1.5 seconds of Vettel with a fastest lap, but Vettel responds with a new personal best lap of his own! Vettel leads by 1.4 seconds, but Hamilton is on the attack...
Lap 53/58 Sainz to Renault: "I'm struggling with my stomach. I've got a lot of nausea."
Lap 52/58 Hamilton gets himself together and pushes again, but remains two seconds behind Vettel, who is not taking any risks.
Lap 51/58 ...but Hamilton's hopes of piling the pressure on Vettel hit a snag. He locks up and loses ground — around three seconds — on the leader.
Lap 49/58 "Can I push yet? You know how much you want it! Come on!! I'm going for it!" — Hamilton means business!
Lap 47/58 Red Bull to Ricciardo: "Just have a think how you want to approach the last part of the race - attack every lap or chill out for a bit"
Ricciardo to Red Bull: "I don't want to let him breathe," is the response.
Lap 45/58 "Good lap Kimi! Tyres are good, fuel is good!" — Ferrari confident Raikkonen can keep Ricciardo at bay.
Lap 44/58 Little to choose between the pace of the leaders at the moment.
Lap 43/58 Ferrari to Vettel: "You are doing well — keep your head down".
Lap 41/58 Vettel now over a second clear of Hamilton...
Lap 39/58 Ricciardo and Raikkonen in a scrap for third. Ricciardo has a look, but the Finn holds him off. The Australian would love a podium finish at his home GP.
Lap 37/58 Hamilton is pushing hard to keep up with Vettel, but the German is in control. Hamilton may have to think about a refuel soon too.
Lap 35/58 Bottas makes it past Vandoorne to go eighth.
Lap 33/58 Verstappen is hot on the heels of Alonso, who is fifth. A promising showing by the Spaniard.
Lap 31/58 The safety car departs and Vettel bolts! The German now has control of this race. What a turnaround.
Lap 29/58 "We thought we were safe, but there's obviously something wrong" — Mercedes seem to have misjudged the minimum speed during the virtual safety car period when Vettel claimed the lead.
Lap 27/58 Hamilton can't believe he's ended up behind Vettel! "What just happened guys? Was that my mistake?"
Lap 26/58 Now the safety car is out as the debris is cleared...
Lap 25/58 Vettel is on a new set of softs and rejoins in the lead!
Lap 24/58 Vettel takes advantage to pit onto new tyres. Good timing.
Lap 23/58 Grosjean slows and retires in the pits. The virtual safety car is called so Grosjean's car can be cleared
Lap 21/58 Hamilton's turn to pit, and he maintains his lead.
Lap 20/58 Verstappen is having a nightmare out there. "I think there's something wrong," says Verstappen. "I have so much oversteer in the middle of the corners." Not the season-opener he'd been hoping for.
Lap 19/58 Raikkonen responds with a new fastest lap! Superb from the Finn, who now pits...
Lap 17/58 Ferrari to Raikkonen: "Try to push as much as you can. Critical moment,"
Lap 15/58 Hamilton now has a healthy lead of almost three seconds. A nice cushion as they start to think about pit stops.
Lap 13/58 Hamilton starting to turn up the heat at the front. A new fastest lap as he goes 2.7 seconds clear.
Lap 12/58 Ericsson and Sirotkin are the only casualties so far. Everyone else safely through the opening laps.
Lap 10/58 The Red Bull radio to Ricciardo: "Nice move mate"
Lap 9/58 Big move from Ricciardo! He darts past Hulkenberg, who fights back, but is unable to keep the Australian at bay around the following corner. Ricciardo takes seventh.
Lap 7/58 Magnussen is flying out there. He overtook Verstappen at the start to go fourth and is keeping the heat on Vettel.
Lap 5/58 Raikkonen is matching Hamilton for pace in the early laps in Melbourne. An exciting start at the front.
Lap 3/58 Vettel is another second further back in third.
Lap 2/58 Hamilton doesn't waste any time opening up a 1.2 second lead from Raikkonen.
Lap 1/58 We're off! Hamilton fends off the two Ferraris around the first bend.
07.55 Here's how they line up on the grid:
06.55 CET The start of the Australian Grand Prix — and the brand new F1 season — is 15 minutes away. Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton?