Hamilton welcomes "best against best" rivalry with Vettel

Mercedes and Ferrari are very close on pace as Vettel took the opening Grand Prix victory

Ferrari, Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton,

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, right, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain embrace after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, March 26, 2017. Vettel won ahead of Hamilton in the race. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Lewis Hamilton believes his rivalry with Sebastian Vettel will see the "best against the best" going for this season's F1 title.

Britain's three time world champion finished second behind the German in the season opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

In the process , Vettel's win secured a first race triumph for Ferrari since 2015, finishing ahead of Hamilton who had taken pole position in qualifying the day before.

The Ferrari had had appeared to have made progress during the winter and that was confirmed in Australia as their race pace matched up well with what has been a Mercedes that has dominated recent seasons.

Hamilton has won two of his three driver's titles with Mercedes, while Vettel won four world titles in a row while at Red Bull from 2010 to 2013. 

"This year you are seeing the best against the best with the best drivers at the top," he told Sky Sports.

"I am really grateful to have that fight with him, against Ferrari, which is the next best team.

"Finally we can have an actual race. It is going to be close. I truly believe we can beat them. It's great to see Ferrari there."

Between Hamilton and Vettel, the duo have won seven of the last nine championships since Hamilton won his maiden title in 2008.

They are also the two youngest World Championship winners, with Vettel breaking Hamilton's record in 2010 when he triumphed at the age of 23 and 133 days.

They are also second and fourth in the all time list of race winners, with Hamilton on 53 wins and Vettel 10 in arrears after taking his 43rd career win in Melbourne.