VICTORY IN MELBOURNE: Race-winner Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (centre), Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (left) and team mate Valtteri Bottas following the Australian Grand Prix. Image: AP / Rick Rycroft
Melbourne - Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel triumphed over Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton with a stunning victory in the season-opening 2017 Australian GP in Melbourne on Sunday.
Vettel won by almost 10 seconds from Hamilton and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit.
Ferrari hadn't won in Melbourne since Kimi Raikkonen's 2007 victory and it was Vettel's second triumph in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.
As it happened: 2017 Australian GP
Here 5 things we learned from the season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne:
1 Mercedes beware, Ferrari are back
It was only one race but the nature of Sebastian Vettel's victory suggests that three years of Mercedes domination may be over. The German's Ferrari was able to keep pace comfortably with leader Lewis Hamilton in the early stages.
Hamilton said: "He was relatively close. And if the roles were reversed and he was ahead he probably would have pulled away."
Once Vettel got in front after the pit stops the result was never in doubt. Significantly, it seems the improved Ferrari engine now matches the power of the Mercedes.
Vettel said: "Right now, it looks like we have equal machinery. I hope it turns out that way."
2 Faster cars mean harder racing
Hamilton said after pre-season testing that the 2017 rule changes - more downforce, fatter tyres with more grip and faster cars -- would make it harder to race. He saw no reason to change his mind after Melbourne, saying that the increased turbulence from the car in front makes overtaking more difficult.
Hamilton said: "It is probably worse now than before. It has definitely not got any better. Last year we had to have a second advantage on the car in front. If it's one second last year, it's two seconds this year."
3 Ricciardo loses his smile
Daniel Ricciardo struggled to find his trademark smile after a home grand prix to forget. A crash in qualifying, a five-place grid demotion, a formation lap breakdown and finally retirement on lap 29 left plenty to ponder before China in just under two weeks.
"Not the weekend I wanted at home," lamented the normally ebullient Australian.
"For all these things to happen at my home race, that's probably the most frustrating thing. If any Aussies have a bit of energy left in a few weeks, then come out to China and you'll hopefully see a better race from me."
4 Alonso sees hope for McLaren
Fernando Alonso was surprisingly upbeat in the paddock about the new orange McLaren despite a pre-season dogged by Honda engine problems. "I was driving one of my best races so far and we were surprisingly in the points all race long," said the two-time world champion, who was involved in a ding-dong battle for 10th place with the Force India of Sebastian Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg's Renault until he had to retire on lap 50.
Alonso said: "I felt confident and I enjoyed driving the car throughout the race. We are last in terms of performance. We need to be more competitive soon."
5 'Great for the fans'
Hamilton will get a quick chance to turn the tables on Vettel when the teams meet again in China. The Shanghai International Circuit will see harder tyres and longer straights, a combination that usually suits Mercedes. Hamilton is relishing the prospect of the two dominant drivers of the last decade, with seven world championships between them, going head to head for the title.
Hamilton said: "This year we have the best drivers at the front. I know it's been a long time coming. It shows we are going to have a race on our hands, which we are very happy to have, which is great for the fans."