Ferrari may have knocked Mercedes off of its pedestal in the first race of the season, but will it be able to consistently challenge the Silver Arrows this year? Sebastian Vettel took the race win in Australia after a strategic error saw Lewis Hamilton stuck behind Max Verstappen after the pit stops. It cost Hamilton the race, but Mercedes believe the race win wasn’t a definite even without the strategy mistake. “Ferrari was the quicker car,” Toto Wolff told Autosport. “The way Sebastian held onto Lewis, on his gearbox, we were pushing flat out and we were just not able to pull away. “There was the risk of the undercut and we also thought that the tyre wouldn’t last anymore. “And all that led us to the decision to put to avoid the undercut. “And then, coming out behind Max, who was fighting his own race, just lost us the race.” Hamilton, starting on pole, was able to get a good get away from the grid, keeping Vettel behind him. In recent years, that really would have been the end of the race, with Hamilton driving off into the sunset, but this time the Ferrari was able to keep up. Mercedes believes it was a mixture of an increase in pace from the Ferrari and tyre problems for Hamilton that kept Vettel right on his tail. “We didn’t firstly have the pace to be able to pull a gap, for example, to Sebastian,” Hamilton said. “We knew that early on. We continued on this road, which just didn’t end up working out. “There’s an area that we have to work on. Obviously our tyre usage is something we understand is where we’re losing. So we’re just trying to make changes to improve that in the future, which we will do.” After the race, Hamilton said that he’d been struggling with grip from the start of the race. He also said it was his decision to come in for fresh tyres, as the team feared Ferrari might try an undercut. The pit stop was the defining feature of this race for many but, even without it, Mercedes believe Hamilton would have had a fight on his hands with Vettel. Vettel believes otherwise. “I was struggling to keep up, but still hanging in there,” he said. “I knew I needed to be right behind him. “Once it was clear that he went in, there was no point to follow. We stated out, the tyres were still holding on, and the pace looked alright. “It was very tight. I knew Max would probably try something but I just kept in front. “That was obviously crucial for our race, I tried to push for as hard as I could for the one or two Max was still out to open a bit of a gap and control the race.” It’s also worth mentioning that Vettel was one of the drivers spending a lot of time testing the new tyres for Pirelli before the start of the season. It’s too early to say whether this is just a fluke, or we’ll see Ferrari consistently challenging Mercedes this year but, if Mercedes is right and the Ferrari was the faster car this race, it gives hope that we may have an interesting title battle on our hands. For more Formula One news and discussions head over to the RaceDepartment Formula One sub forum and join in with your fellow community members. Do you think Ferrari will be a real challenge this season? Do you think the team Vettel would have been challenging for the win without the pit stop mistake? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.