Lewis Hamilton is anticipating another close battle with Formula 1 rivals Ferrari in Bahrain, after losing out to Sebastian Vettel in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. 

The defending four-time world champion stormed to pole position and opened up a comfortable buffer during the early stages, before he was leapfrogged by Vettel - running a longer opening stint - under a Virtual Safety Car period. 

Hamilton showed impressive pace on older tyres to close in on Vettel, but the Mercedes driver was unable to pass the German and ultimately settled for second place in Melbourne

"There will be ups and downs,” Hamilton said. “Ferrari are really quick on the straight. I think their performance is better than what it looked. They will be rapid in the next race.

“They are always good on hot circuits - even though it is night race it is tough on the tyres. I can tell you it’s not going to be easy that’s for sure and it’s going to be close.”

Hamilton said he was in “disbelief” when he saw Vettel emerge from the pit lane in the lead under the VSC, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff blaming a software bug for exacerbating the situation. 

Mercedes is set to launch an investigation into the issue after the reigning world champions were misguided on the time distance required to stay ahead of Vettel if he pitted in such a scenario.

"I had extra tools. I could have been further ahead by the first pit stop,” the Briton added. “There were so many good things we could have done but if one thing is telling you one thing and you think you are doing it to the book and to within the limits, then there is nothing you can do.

"I feel like I was driving as good as ever and really happy with how I was driving. Anyway, I will take it on to the next race and apply it exactly the same as this weekend and try to grow within myself.

"Everyone in the team is feeling it but there is so much positivity to take forward with us. We still got second. It feels like a dark cloud but it's not. It is still a positive result. We have a great car, we are still the world champions and with a couple of adjustments we can win the next race.”

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