Sebastian Vettel claimed the 11th victory of his F1 career, and his first as reigning world champion, with a consummate performance in the Australian Grand Prix.
The German, who had never previously finished at Albert Park, led from start to finish, only losing his advantage during the two pit-stops necessitated by the Pirelli tyres, and eventually came home a comfortable 22 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The Briton, as promised, kept his rival honest in the opening stages, often lapping faster than the Red Bull, but suffered damage to the floor of his reworked McLaren and dropped away in the second half of the race. The problem could yet cause concerns for the McLaren team in scrutineering.
The pair were joined on the podium by Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who no doubt provided another spur for the injured Robert Kubica to return to action. The Russian, taking his first top three finish, benefited from a flying start that elevated him ahead of Jenson Button and, having run a lonely race for much of the 58-lap distance, resisted late pressure from Abu Dhabi rival Fernando Alonso to underline Renault’s pre-season promise.
Alonso overcame a poor start and the second Red Bull of Mark Webber to take fourth for Ferrari, while the Australian pulled off immediately after the chequered flag, suggesting he may have had a problem towards the end that prevented him from chasing the Spaniard.
Button recovered from a drive-through – for cutting an corner while battling the fast-starting Felipe Massa – to claim sixth, ahead of impressive rookie Sergio Perez, who bested Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi after making just one stop for tyres. Massa got the better of Sebastien Buemi late on to take ninth, while the Swiss opened Toro Rosso’s account with the final point.