Get the FULL Australian Grand Prix race results HERE

Sebastian Vettel made good on Ferrari's pre-season promise by storming to victory in the Formula 1 season-opener in Australia, courtesy of a dose of strategic savviness from the Italian marque's pit wall.

Vettel and Ferrari were tipped to impress in Australia given their winter pace, yet when Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton bagged pole position on Saturday, it appeared that the status quo from 2016 could be set to remain.

Hamilton led the early part of the race, only for Mercedes to bring him in too early, allowing Ferrari to exercise the 'overcut' and keep Vettel out.

As Hamilton hit traffic, Vettel made use of his clean air to open up a gap to his rival, allowing him to emerge from the pit lane as the net leader. From there, he was untouchable, dominating proceedings to record his first win since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

Following one aborted start due to Nico Hulkenberg being out of position on the grid, Hamilton managed to make a clean getaway from pole to retain the lead heading into the first corner ahead of Vettel. Despite a clash involving Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson on the first lap that saw both Scandavians suffer damage, the race remained under green flag conditions, allowing Hamilton and Vettel to begin their close head to head fight, separated by barely a second in the early part of the race.

Lewis Hamilton led into turn one from Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas

Hamilton was soon able to build a gap despite raising concerns about grip levels, dropping Vettel out of DRS range to give himself some breathing space at the front. Valtteri Bottas managed to stay third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1 despite a fast getaway from Max Verstappen, who was left to settle back in fifth after some robust defence from the cars ahead.

As the field began to spread out and the opening round of pit stops neared, Vettel turned up the wick to move to within one second of Hamilton once again. Hamilton responded by pitting almost immediately at the end of Lap 17, freeing up Vettel and fitting the soft tyre that would take him to the end of the race.

Ferrari did not respond to Hamilton, with Vettel's tyres looking in much better shape, allowing the team to attempt an 'overcut'. Hamilton put in some quick lap times, but soon hit traffic after conceding track position, giving Vettel the chance to forge a lead at the front. As he toiled behind Verstappen, Hamiton was informed it was "race critical" and he had to get through; the Briton simply said: "I don't know how you expect me to do that" - the race was moving towards Ferrari and Vettel.

With traffic beginning to pile up, Ferrari opted to bring Vettel in at the end of Lap 23. Despite a slight hesitation in pulling away, Vettel snaked out of the pit lane ahead of both Verstappen and Hamilton; Ferrari had played a strategy blinder, and was now in control of the race.

By the time Verstappen had opted to come in for a fresh set of tyres, Hamilton was already six seconds down on Vettel, who re-assumed the lead when Bottas and Raikkonen both swapped tyres. Mercedes informed its lead driver that it was considering plan B, suggesting that a two-stop strategy might be on the cards.

As the race passed half-distance, home favourite Daniel Ricciardo saw his difficult day end early as he stopped at Turn 3. After taking a grid penalty for a gearbox change following his qualifying crash, Ricciardo then suffered an electrical issue en route to the grid. Red Bull managed to fix the issue and get him into the race two laps down on the field, making the race an extended test session. An additional problem forced Ricciardo to park his car up at the side of the track, leaving Verstappen as the sole remaining Red Bull in P5.

While Mercedes explored possible strategy options for Hamilton, the gap to Vettel at the front started to fall following a number of quick laps. Vettel responded and upped his own pace while negotiating traffic, leaving Mercedes still unsure what to do with Hamilton. For the Briton, the more pressing issue was Bottas behind, who was within four seconds and the fastest man on the circuit.

A savvy strategy allows Vettel to leapfrog Hamilton and power clear

Vettel soon managed to extend his lead significantly, moving over nine seconds clear heading into the final quarter of the race. Bottas soon started to get in Hamilton's dirty air, closing to within two seconds of the car ahead; for the three-time champion, consolidating second became the priority, not catching the man at the front. To make matters worse, Hamilton reported that he felt power "dropping in and out", spiking worry on the Mercedes pit wall.

Although Hamilton's pace soon stabilised, allowing him to keep Bottas at an arm's length, Vettel was by this point out of reach at the front. The Ferrari driver managed to ease through the final few laps before crossing the line for his fourth victory for the Scuderia, kick-starting a possible title challenge in 2017.

The result marked Ferrari's first win in Australia since 2007, and left Mercedes scrambling as Hamilton and Bottas were left to settle for second and third place respectively. Hamilton's lead over Bottas at the line was just 1.2 seconds, the pair struggling to live with Vettel's pace in the closing stages.

Kimi Raikkonen finished the race over 20 seconds behind Vettel in the sister Ferrari, winding up fourth, while Max Verstappen's decision to run the second stint on super-softs failed to pay off as he was left to finish up fifth.

Felipe Massa's comeback race was deeply impressive as he finished sixth for Williams, ending as the team's sole finisher. Team-mate Lance Stroll did well to battle from the back row, but ultimately retired after 40 laps.

Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India, heading up a double-points finish with Esteban Ocon taking his first top-10 finish in F1 with P10. Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat split the pink VJM10s in P8 and P9, the latter having completed 36 laps on the ultra-soft tyre as part of a bold strategy.

Nico Hulkenberg missed out on points for Renault, finishing one second behind Ocon to leave the German 11th. Stablemate Jolyon Palmer's tough weekend came to a disappointing end as he was forced to retire early on.

Antonio Giovinazzi put in a strong display on F1 debut to finish 12th for Sauber, while McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was the last classified finisher in P13. Their respective team-mates Marcus Ericsson and Fernando Alonso both retired, the latter having spent the race on the fringes of the top 10.

Haas also had a race to forget as both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen retired. Magnussen was able to complete 46 laps despite his third-corner clash with Ericsson, but had to retire, with Grosjean suffering an engine failure when running in the points early on.

The F1 paddock reconvenes in two weeks' time with the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Get the FULL Australian Grand Prix race results HERE

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