Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on 'ominous' form as F1 season begins

"If you look who we are up against, Mercedes have been phenomenal in the last couple of years... they will be the ones to beat". Teammate Kevin Magnussen was a non-factor after a first-lap incident that would lead to suspension failure later in the race. The most important thing was our pace was good.

Sebastian Vettel is hoping that Sunday's victory at the Australian Grand Prix is just the "beginning of a big love affair" with "Gina", his SF70H.

"It's been a privilege to be racing in an era with him and now finally at a period of time when we can actually have a real race", said Hamilton, who finished second after starting on pole with Vettel alongside. Max Verstappen echoed his thoughts, and Bottas admitted that overtaking would prove a little more hard. I have not really had many races up against Sebastian but I have always had great respect for him.

Hamilton and new team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to settle for second and third respectively as Ferrari showed their impressive form in testing was no false dawn.

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On the front row next to pole-sitter Hamilton, Vettel got off to a sluggish start and his British rival broke clear to avoid Albert Park's usual messy log-jam at turn one.

But while Vettel, Ferrari and indeed the sport - which is desperately relying on another constructor to take the challenge to Hamilton's all-conquering Mercedes team - will be pleased they are in contention, it is the 32-year-old Briton who is revelling in yet another qualifying masterclass.

Hamilton took charge of his own fitness and nutrition programme at the start of this season after previously employing a personal trainer. I had a good feeling driving it and hope to keep it going for a long time.

After crossing the finish line, Vettel howled in ecstasy and thousands of red-clad Ferrari fans flooded onto the lakeside circuit to share in the German's triumph.

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"I only saw a very small part of the preparation and it's nice to see the work has pulled off and we're fighting at the front". "When we launched the SF70H we referred to it as "our Ferrari" and indeed today's win reflects all the effort and hard work put in over the past few months, both in Maranello and at the track", he said.

But, like Vettel, Marchionne is not getting carried away at the start of a globe-trotting season which will wrap up in Abu Dhabi in November. "We had a mixed day yesterday, but confidence in the vehicle was there from testing".

Shanghai will also be an opportunity for Australian Daniel Ricciardo to bounce back after his traumatic outing in Melbourne.

Despite this being Max Verstappen's third season in a Formula 1 vehicle, the Red Bull driver is still a teenager - and that should have his rivals very anxious.

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"Sure, I'm disappointed now but it is what it is. I'm looking forward to China".


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