Australian Grand Prix - Gallery

Australian Grand Prix - Gallery

'We deeply apologize to Formula 1 fans for the technical issues that caused them to miss the first 20 minutes of the pre-race show for the Australian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a mid-race safety vehicle to take an opportunistic victory ahead of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in the Australian Grand Prix.

"Needless to say, we got a bit lucky with the timing of the safety vehicle", Vettel said. "We know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but the first step has been taken in the right direction".

"I think we are old enough, I don't think we need to go on that sort of level".

Following the race, and losing what looked to be a certain win Hamilton said he couldn't understand how he lost the race.

Podium finishes for Sebastian Vettel, who joins Michael Schumacher (155), Lewis Hamilton (117) and Alain Prost (106) in the podium centurion club.

Raikkonen was on the front row and challenged Lewis Hamilton for the lead on the opening lap of the race before settling into second position.

Raikkonen, who started in second place with Vettel third, now has 92 podiums.

"If you take the majority of the timed laps in qualifying the Ferrari, the Mercedes and the Red Bull was always very close to each other - within a tenth on some of the laps".

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Mercedes said a computer error meant the team thought Hamilton had enough of a gap to cover a safety auto pit stop by Vettel.

Turns out a fast auto isn't any good if its wheels aren't fitted properly: both Haas cars retired straight after their pit stops with loose wheels, caused by two separate wheel nut problems. With cars on track obliged to drive slowly under virtual safety vehicle conditions minimising time lost in the pits, Vettel took his opportunity dived in for his stop and came out ahead of Hamilton. "What just happened guys?" a confused Hamilton asked over the team radio.

"Why did you not tell me Vettel was in the pits?"

Vettel was the fortunate recipient of their costly error as he made his stop for new rubber before staying ahead of a stunned Hamilton by just half-a-second. With victory looking increasingly out of reach, Hamilton then eased up toward the end to conserve his engine for the next race.

"It was disbelief from that moment until the end of the race", said Hamilton. There were so many good things we could have done.

But Vettel indicated Hamilton wouldn't have it all his own way in 2018 with an inspiring victory that has set the stage for a titanic battle never before seen in Formula One.

Vettel admitted Ferrari had enjoyed some good fortune.

"I think we didn't have the true race pace to match them but we weren't that far off", he said. "I think nowadays the times are different, they are very different times to what Fangio achieved", he added. Vettel emerged from the pits 0.682s ahead of Hamilton and held the lead for the rest of the race. It marked a startling contrast to a year ago when Alonso retired and Vandoorne ended the race two laps back. The Australian finished in fourth place.

Nico Hulkenberg's Renault was in seventh in front of Valtteri Bottas who had recovered from 15th on the grid, with the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in ninth and the second Renault of Carlos Sainz in 10th.