Winners and losers from 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley of New Zealand pulls his helmet on during the first practice session at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne Friday

The two drivers both had wheel nuts installed cross-threaded on their cars, leading to retirements soon after each had left the pits and the introduction of the Virtual Safety Car.

Mutual respect was traded in for resentment a year ago when the pair bumped wheels at an explosive Azerbaijan Grand Prix, prompting an angry outburst from Mercedes' Hamilton.

It was the 48th race win of Vettel's career and his 100th podium finish, coming in his 200th F1 race. "It's not the easiest track to pass", the German, who had started from third place and inherited the lead when Hamilton and Raikkonen had pitted earlier in the race, said.

The Briton repeatedly closed in on Vettel after losing the lead, despite driving into the Ferrari's dirtier air, only for Hamilton to have to halt his attacks due to overheating concerns. And while the team were cautiously optimistic of improvement, for Alonso to get a mediocre auto up into fifth position is testament to the will and determination of the man. That is where the safety auto does not actually come out on track, but drivers must keep to a reduced speed and meet a set lap time to demonstrate they have slowed down.

Vettel was the fortunate recipient of their costly error as he made his stop for new rubber before staying ahead of a stunned Hamilton by just half-a-second.

Vettel came out on to the track last, but he could only finish third-fastest, trailing both Hamilton and Raikkonen.

Overtaking is notoriously hard at Albert Park and once Vettel had made it to the front, Hamilton could pressure him but do little else.

The gap between four-time world champion Hamilton and the rest of the field took many drivers by surprise, with Ricciardo likening it to "throwing a pie in everyone's face". That and F1's overly complex safety cars rules distracted from the fact that Hamilton had a faster vehicle and the use of three DRS zones, and still couldn't pass Vettel.

"Obviously, the gap is bigger than we want it to be", Vettel said.

"It was a real surprise to see how quick the Ferraris were, the speeds they already had on the straights", Hamilton said. Would Red Bull be able to challenge at the front?

It was not just Vettel.

He also stressed that the negativity of the result should not overshadow a strong weekend.

Germany's Vettel, who took four consecutive titles for Red Bull from 2010-13, was similarly generous to the driver he shook his fist at in a rage at Baku a year ago when he claimed the Briton had brake-tested him before their clash of wheels on track.

Not this time. They are on it immediately and are clearly the fastest package.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg finished in seventh place, just ahead of the other Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, who crashed in qualifying and ended up starting in 15th place on the grid after incurring a penalty for switching out his damaged gearbox.

As the German insisted that the Briton had been privy to an extra mode - something subsequently confirmed by team boss Toto Wolff - and wondered why the world champion hadn't used it before, Hamilton replied: "I was waiting to put a good lap in".