The Mercedes team were favorites to win the 2018 Formula 1 season opening Australian Grand Prix and they looked well in control with Lewis Hamilton leading the way for the first 26 laps to go, but it was not to be as a technical glitch and smart thinking from Ferrari saw Sebastian Vettel snatch an unlikely win.

The German driver was not even a contender for the win as Hamilton and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen were first and second in the first stint of the race. The Finn was the first of the top three to stop for fresh tires and to cover the undercut, Mercedes decided to pit the race leader.

Ferrari decided to keep Vettel out for a longer first stint as he was unable to keep up with the leaders before the first round of stops. Hamilton came out behind Vettel and according to Mercedes, a 13.6 second gap was sufficient for them to retake the lead from the German even in the event of a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) when he made his first and only stop of the race.

Toto Wolff Mercedes' mistake cost Hamilton victory at the 2018 Australian GP. In this picture, Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff in the Team Principals Press Conference during practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 23, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

However, their calculations were wrong, as Ferrari took advantage of the VSC situation imposed by Romain Grosjean’s Haas Racing car and pitted Vettel on lap 26, the German came out ahead of a confused Hamilton who was unsure what had happened. Even Mercedes were shocked by their calculations, which gifted Ferrari an unlikely win in Australia.

Wolff admits the team made mistakes during the race weekend and is aware that the tiniest of errors will be punished in the harshest way in F1. But the Mercedes team principal is confident that it will serve as a learning experience for the entire team.

Mercedes are certain to come all guns blazing when the F1 juggernaut arrives in Bahrain for the second race of the season on Sunday. The Silver Arrows team are certainly the quickest among the top three, which also includes Red Bull Racing.

"We suspected that the new season would be close-fought and the first race confirmed those suspicions," Wolff said, as quoted by the Express. "We made mistakes and did not perform to our maximum - and it reminded us that this is the toughest racing series in the world, where every error is punished.”

"It hurt to leave all those points on the table, especially because we know we had the pace to win in Australia.

"Back at base, we did what we always do after a tough weekend. We made sure that we understand what went wrong and put a process in place to make sure that we don't see a similar issue in the future,” he added.

"These painful moments are the real learning experiences. Mistakes become training."

Vettel now leads the Drivers’ world championship with 25 points with Hamilton in second with 18. While Ferrari lead the constructors standings with a 20-point advantage over Mercedes following a 1-3 finish in Australian.

Mercedes will again be the favorites at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain owing their superior power units, but Hamilton has warned against taking the Ferrari’s lightly admitting that the hot temperatures in the desert track suit the Italian team better.