Formula One: Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton in first race of season

Sebastian Vettel has beaten Lewis Hamilton in the first race of the Formula One season in Australia.

The 29-year-old German beat the pre-race favourite by almost 10 seconds, positioning Ferrari to challenge the dominance of Mercedes.

Ferrari failed to win a single race last year and the victory makes it the first team other than Mercedes to win the opening Grand Prix of the season since 2013.

In 19 of the last 27 seasons, the winner of the first race of the campaign has proceeded to win the championship.

Four-time champion Vettel said: "It's a great relief for everyone. This is just the beginning."

He added: "I have great respect (for Hamilton).

"He has proven to be one of the quickest drivers on the grid and I would love to have a close battle. It is a lot of fun to race for victories and a lot of fun to race against the best.

"Right now it looks like we have equal machinery and I hope it stays that way."

Hamilton said he was looking forward to a closely-fought battle for the F1 crown.

He said: "At least we have a great driver in Sebastian winning four titles after his incredible surge into Formula One and he will continue to be a force for many years to come.

"I am really grateful to have that fight with him, against Ferrari which is the next best team, and there is a top driver there, too.

"It has been a privilege to be racing in an era with him and finally we are in a period of time when we can actually have a real race."

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