Virtual safety car period gives German opportunity to gain track position to win his 48th grand prix in F1's 2018 season opener.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel holds off Lewis Hamilton to win Australian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel held off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton to triumph at the Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2018 Formula One season.
Hamilton had dominated the early stages from pole position in his Mercedes-GP with Vettel running in third place behind the Briton and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
But Vettel stayed out and took the lead when Hamilton and Raikkonen both made their pit stops.
That proved an inspired move when a virtual safety car (VSC) period was called after Romain Grosjean's Haas had top stopped on track.
Vettel was able to pit at the end of Lap 28 and return to the track still ahead of Hamilton, thanks to the Mercedes man having to run at a slower pace due to the circuit being under caution.
The German then held off bouts of sustained pressure from Hamilton to triumph in Melbourne for the third time in his career.
Raikkonen was third, ahead of Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo, with Fernando Alonso finishing fifth in his McLaren for his best result in F1 since the United States Grand Prix in 2016.
Max Verstappen recovered from an early spin to be sixth in the second Red Bull, with Nico Hulkenberg's Renault seventh and Valtteri Bottas eighth in his Mercedes.
The next round of the season is in Bahrain on April 8.