Formula One: Valtteri Bottas wins Australian Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. Photo credit: AAP

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas overtook teammate Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap to win the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Finnish driver claimed his first victory since November 2017, upstaging teammate and five-time world champion Hamilton in the season opener in Melbourne.

Under pressure to keep his seat after a winless 2018, Bottas responded with a stunning victory and finished almost 21 seconds ahead of his British teammate.   

Red Bull's Max Verstappen was third to snatch his first Albert Park podium.   

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel finished a distant fourth and new Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was fifth.   

Australia's Daniel Ricciardo had a nightmare Renault debut after being forced to retire from his home Grand Prix for the third time, lasting just 31 of the race's 58 laps.   

But there was no stopping Bottas who ended a winless run of 22 races to claim his fourth career victory.   

He also picked up an extra championship point for the fastest lap.   

"It is definitely the best race I have had in my life," said Bottas.   

"After a tricky year last year, to start the season like this is very good."   

The Australian GP looked like Hamilton's to lose after the Briton claimed his sixth-straight pole and a record-equalling eighth overall at Albert Park.   

His second placing ensures only one of the past seven pole sitters at Melbourne have gone on to win.   

Hamilton was forced to produce a lap record on Saturday to hold out Bottas in qualifying.   

But Bottas had his man, getting the jump on his teammate by the first corner and was never threatened.   

"Ultimately, I didn't do a good enough job," Hamilton said.   

"But with our two cars up front, I don't have a problem coming second."   

Vettel gave himself a chance to join Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to win three-consecutive Australian GPs after starting from third on the grid after blistering test pace in Spain.   

But he finished almost a minute behind Bottas to miss the podium.   

Mercedes appear on track to win a sixth-successive constructors' championship, equalling Ferrari's record run from 1999.   

Before the race, a minute's silence was held for Formula One race director Charlie Whiting who died in Melbourne on the eve of the new season.   

"This one is for Charlie and all he did for Formula One," Bottas said.   

Ricciardo, Haas driver Romain Grosjean and McLaren's Carlos Sainz failed to finish.   

The Bahrain Grand Prix is on March 31.   

AAP