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Vettel confident in ability to challenge Mercedes


Whether or not Lewis Hamilton has opened the 2017 Formula One season on Sunday with a Melbourne victory that would suggest he and Mercedes are very much re-establishing F1's old order, the pervading sense of optimism for the future of the sport is still unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

The four-time world champion cruised to his second win at Albert Park and 43rd overall with a almost 10-second gap over Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes, proving that the Ferrari cars' encouraging winter testing was not just a mirage. Completing the top five spots are Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen on fourth place and Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen on fifth.

Britain's three time world champion finished second behind the German in the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Niki Lauda has hailed Valtteri Bottas's debut for Formula One world champions Mercedes as "incredible" and suggested the Finn's retired predecessor Nico Rosberg would have done no better.

"I don't lie and I'm not very good at bluffing", Hamilton said.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said it was an impressive performance from the young Italian driver in his first F1 race.

Vettel held all the aces in the Melbourne season opener mastering Hamilton by nearly 10 seconds and Bottas. "But tomorrow we can do something in the race. It is close between us all and it will be a tight race". I struggled for grip to the point where I needed to come in, plus the gap was closing up and I was sliding around a lot.

Ferrari leads the constructors' standings by four points from Mercedes, with F1 moving to Shanghai next month for the Chinese Grand Prix. The guys didn't get much sleep, vehicle really behaving well, incredible fun to drive, a lovely day.

"Some guys braked quite early in front of me and I managed to gain some places, but then I had a flat spot so had to stop early and, strategy-wise, we changed to a two-stop", said Stroll. I hope it stays that way and then we will see how it turns out. "One feature of yesterday's race was the lack of overtaking", she says.

Melbourne's traditional exhilaration comes from the very fact that getting cars side by side there is hard.

While there is only so much that can be gauged from practice, with drivers operating varying fuel levels, the theory that this year's wider, faster and more aggressive looking cars would suddenly shake up the order and bring a dramatic halt to Mercedes' dominance is now under significant scrutiny.

Sergio Perez was the fastest of the pink-liveried Force India cars in 11th with his new teammate Esteban Ocon 13th.

Ferrari Mercedes Sebastian Vettel Lewis Hamilton

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