The 2017 Formula 1 season is looming as a shoot-out between the sport’s greatest modern drivers after Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix, 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The Brit started the day in pole position but a tactical misjudgement from his Mercedes team allowed the Ferrari driver to take the lead on lap 24, and the German held on with ease to claim the first race win for the Prancing Horse since 2015.
Valtteri Bottas finished behind his Mercedes team-mate to claim the final podium position, while local hope Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable afternoon, bowing out of the race with a whimper on lap 30.
Hamilton (three) and Vettel (four) have seven championships between them, but have never competed against each other in evenly matched machines, meaning the 2017 season now looms as a mouth-watering showdown between the two.
“It is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon,” Vettel said after the race.
“The car is really screaming, ‘more, more, more’,” he said of the rule changes which promised to bring Mercedes back to the pack slightly and give fans more action-packed racing than in 2016.
Ricciardo, due to start from 15th on the grid after his Red Bull team were forced to change the gear box in his car after yesterday’s crash, did not make it through the warm-up lap before problems surfaced.
His car stuck in sixth gear, leaving him stranded on the track. He was given a lift back to the pits and his team frantically worked to get the engine going again. They eventually did so, two laps into the race.