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Traffic and tyre wear were the difference between World Champions in Melbourne and Sebastian Vettel came out on top at Albert Park.

Lewis Hamilton won the start and led the first 17 laps of the Australian Grand Prix. But when he came back onto the track behind Max Verstappen, he was unable to get past – in spite of the fact that the Mercedes-Benz had been lapping up to a second a lap faster than the Red Bull.

That was all the incentive that Vettel needed. His Ferrari was closer in race trim to Hamilton’s pace and when he pitted on lap 22, he just squeezed back onto the track in front of Vertsappen.

“The first corner was a bit tricky,” he said after the race, but I just… [made an understeering movement].”

That was all the gap he needed. Once Hamilton was free to chase he did so, but the tyre wear was no better on Super Soft tyres than it had been on Ultra Softs and, in spite of a temporary change of strategy, Hamilton had to settle for second.

Mercedes debutant Valtteri Bottas had a lonely run to third place, ahead of countryman Kimi Raikkonen, who found more speed in his Ferrari as the race went on.

Verstappen was fifth on what was a tough day for Red Bull. Local hope Daniel Ricciardo was put back to 15th on the grid after a gearbox change and didn’t even get to start there, after stopping on the formation lap with electrical problems.

Felipe Massa was sixth for Williams ahead of Sergio Perez (Force India). Carlos Sainz won the battle of the Toro Rossos in eighth ahead or Daniil Kvyat, while Esteban Ocon put two pink cars in the top 10 after a solid run.

One thing that is apparent is that overtaking is not going to be any easier with the new generation of cars than it has been in recent years –and that finally, Hamilton and Vettel might have the cars, and the teams to back them up, that will see the two most successful drivers of their generation finally fight it out on the track.