Vettel sets standard for Mercedes duo

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished second and third for Brackley's Mercedes AMG Petronas team

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished second and third for Brackley's Mercedes AMG Petronas team

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Two Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers on the podium in the season opener but neither one on the top step.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix emphatically over three-time champion Lewis Hamilton while Valtteri Bottas was third in his first race for the reigning world champions.

We were pushing flat-out and felt that the tyres wouldn’t last anymore, so all of that led us to the decision to pit to avoid the undercut

Team boss Toto Wolff

Vettel’s margin of victory over the Mercedes driver was 9.975 seconds.

After Hamilton took his sixth Australian GP pole, equalling the feat of the late Ayrton Senna, Vettel got the better of the Mercedes AMG Petronas driver in the 57-lap season-opening race.

Hamilton and new Brackley team-mate Bottas claimed the other podium positions and F1 fans look to be in for a treat as Mercedes targets its fourth consecutive championship in the face of strong opposition.

Team boss Toto Wolff said: “The Ferrari was the quicker car, seen by the way that Sebastian was able to hold onto Lewis’s gearbox. We were pushing flat-out and felt that the tyres wouldn’t last anymore, so all of that led us to the decision to pit to avoid the undercut.”

Hamilton said: “We had a really good start but after that I was struggling with grip from the get-go. Sebastian was able to always answer in terms of lap time.

“Then I got a bit of traffic and the car started to overheat the tyres. I was struggling with grip to the point that I needed to come in. I was sliding around, it was my call because otherwise Sebastian probably would have come by anyway.”

Bottas added: “My main issue was the first stint, I felt I was always sliding around on the ultra-soft tyre – missing front and rear grip – especially after ten laps.

“That wasn’t easy but once we put on the softs I had a great feeling with the car. It’s a shame it was just a bit too late. Third is not ideal and, in general I’m not happy about the result.”