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Vettel pips Hamilton for win

Mercedes boss Wolff blames miscalculated margin between cars during the safety car period for loss

Sebastian Vettel made full use of the virtual safety car to sneak in front of Lewis Hamilton and hold off the frustrated champion to win Formula 1's season-opening Australian Grand Prix yesterday.

The Mercedes engine's infamous "party mode" that delivered Hamilton a blistering pole lap on Saturday could do little once Ferrari's Vettel nosed ahead when re-entering from pit-lane midway through the race at Albert Park.

Pole-sitter Hamilton had appeared set to coast to victory with a clear pace advantage, but the race turned on its head with the safety car, which was called after Romain Grosjean's Haas failed and rolled to a stop at turn two.

In another bonus for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen finished third, fending off Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and leaving the unlucky Australian still searching for a first podium in his home race.

Four-time world champion Vettel claimed a 48th overall win and his third in Melbourne following his victories at Albert Park last year and in 2011.

  • 1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): 1hr 29min 33.283sec

    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): at 5.036 sec

    3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari): at 6.309

    4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull): at 7.069

    5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren): at 27.886

    6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): at 28.945

    7. Nico Huelkenberg (Renault): at 32.671

    8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): at 34.339

    9. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren): at 34.921

    10. Carlos Sainz Jr (Renault): at 45.722

"We got a bit lucky with the timing of the safety car... It's not the easiest track to pass," the German, who had started from third place and inherited the lead when Hamilton and Raikkonen had pitted earlier in the race, said.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said his team had miscalculated the margin between the cars during the safety car period.

"We thought we had enough margin," he told the BBC.

"It must have been a software bug in the system that caused us to get it wrong. We are digging deep now to understand where we had a problem."

Hamilton, who cockily spoke of "wiping the smile off" Vettel's face with his pole lap on Saturday, battled to keep positive.

"Even now I don't understand what's happened," the 33-year-old said.

"I did everything I believe I was supposed to do... Really last minute I was told that Ferrari was coming out (of pit-lane), I didn't know Ferrari was in. Just disbelief from that moment until... just disbelief."

Twice world champion Fernando Alonso finished fifth for McLaren in the team's first race with Renault power, equalling their best result in three dreary years with previous engine suppliers Honda.

Red Bull's Dutch wunderkind Max Verstappen finished sixth after suffering a full 360-degree spin on the 10th lap that put him out of the running.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas finished eighth after starting 15th, having taken a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change after a heavy crash during qualifying.

"We got punched in the face today and we got punched in the face yesterday," Wolff added.

"Everybody said that we are going to run away with 20 victories and I always said that's not the case. It is very close at the top and this is the message everybody wants to hear." - REUTERS

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