Fer­rari is faster than Mercedes

At last, there’s a bat­tle to savour at the sharp end of the grid

Top Gear (UK) - - THE TEN -

So Se­bas­tian Vet­tel is the frst F1 win­ner of 2017 – his frst win since Sin­ga­pore in 2015. And no, it wasn’t down to ei­ther of the Mercedes conk­ing out, or par­tic­u­larly poor strat­egy from the Ger­man cham­pi­ons... Fer­rari was sim­ply faster over the full dis­tance in Mel­bourne, looked af­ter its tyres bet­ter and ap­plied enough pres­sure to force an open­ing from Mercedes. How much faster was Vet­tel than Hamil­ton? It’s hard to say, but the fact he main­tained a con­stant gap in the open­ing lap de­spite the dirty air from Hamil­ton’s car cost­ing him down­force, speaks vol­umes.

How long have we been wait­ing to say that? Iron­i­cally, it was Hamil­ton who’s been talk­ing up Fer­rari’s chances, la­belling them the favourites. He prob­a­bly wishes he’d not been so kind.

Pole-sit­ter Hamil­ton led from the start, but lost out when he pit­ted and got stuck be­hind Max Ver­stap­pen, let­ting the Fer­rari driver build up enough of a time ad­van­tage to pit with­out los­ing the frst place he’d gained when Hamil­ton came in. Else­where, Valt­teri Bot­tas fnished a steady third, Kimi Räikkö­nen fourth and Ver­stap­pen ffth.

Re­tirees in­cluded Fer­nando Alonso, who sufered a sus­pected sus­pen­sion is­sue not far from the end of the race. Aussie Daniel Ric­cia­rdo al­most didn’t start af­ter his car stopped on the way to the grid. Red Bull got it run­ning again, but he broke down for good on lap 30.

There have been bet­ter sea­son open­ers, and sure, there wasn’t much over­tak­ing, but there of­ten isn’t at Mel­bourne. What we wit­nessed was two teams neck and neck in terms of pace – set­ting up what could be the best sea­son in years... es­pe­cially if Red Bull can sort its re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues and drag it­self into con­tention.

Vet­tel back on the podium. Ex­pect to see much more of this

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