Sebastian Vettel wipes smile off Lewis Hamilton's face in Melbourne
A well-timed pit stop allowed Sebastian Vettel to win the Australian Grand Prix at the expense of world champion Lewis Hamilton for a second successive year on Sunday.
Hamilton teased Vettel on Saturday that he had been waiting to "wipe the smile off your face" before posting a record-breaking lap to secure a seventh Melbourne pole.
But the boot was on the other foot on Sunday, as Vettel's stop under the virtual safety car saw him re-emerge ahead of Hamilton to retain a lead he would not relinquish.
Hamilton's earlier stop had dropped him behind his Ferrari rival and Romain Grosjean's retirement on a promising yet ultimately disastrous day for Haas triggered the virtual safety car.
The frustrated Briton was unable to make up the gap to Vettel, whose faultless drive to the checkered flag was aided by a Hamilton lock-up with 10 laps to go, which lost the Mercedes man a couple of seconds.
Vettel's Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who started second, completed the podium, ahead of home favorite Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and fifth-placed Fernando Alonso — a hugely encouraging result for Renault-powered McLaren after waking from their Honda nightmare.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen had to settle for sixth on a difficult afternoon that started with being overtaken by Kevin Magnussen into the first corner and featured a heart-stopping spin, while Valtteri Bottas — starting 15th following a change of gearbox — was unable to elevate himself into podium contention, finishing down in eighth.
'WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND'
Vettel's response to Hamilton's catty qualifying comments was to warn Hamilton that "what goes around comes around".
And while there was an element of fortune about the circumstances of his victory — more on Haas' collapse later — Vettel will be hugely satisfied to land the first blow in the race for the 2018 drivers' title.
Both drivers are chasing their fifth crown this year, so the stakes are higher than ever before, and Vettel — having won at Albert Park last year before ultimately falling away - will be determined to make his challenge stick this time around.
SLOW PROGRESS FOR BOTTAS
The expectation was that, after his qualifying crash and demotion to 15th on the grid, Bottas' day would consist of picking off the drivers that lay between him and the top six.
However, his progress was painfully slow on a circuit that is notoriously difficult for overtaking.
The Finn will have started Sunday's race determined to make up for Saturday's failings. In truth, he fell some way short on that front.
What a contrasting day for Haas.
Magnussen overtook Verstappen from the start and, with Grosjean close behind, the American outfit looked set for a healthy points haul in the first race of the season.
However, their race unravelled just short of the midway point.
First, Magnussen left the pits with a wheel not properly attached. Remarkably, the same issue then struck Grosjean barely a lap later.
The safety car period that followed proved pivotal in the narrative of this race.
IN THE POINTS
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +5.036s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +6.309s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +7.069s
5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +27.886s
6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +28.945s
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +32.671s
8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +34.339s
9. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +34.921s
10. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +45.722s
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 25
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 18
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 12
5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 10
1. Ferrari 40
2. Mercedes 22
3. Red Bull 20
4. McLaren 12
5. Renault 7
Vettel and Hamilton will next lock horns in Bahrain in two weeks' time.