Sebastian Vettel began his championship defence in fine style with a dominant victory at the Australian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of Renault’s Vitaly Petrov who gained the first podium of his career.
Three-stopping Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber endured frustrating races to finish fourth and fifth ahead of the second McLaren of Jenson Button, who suffered an early drive through penalty for overtaking Felipe Massa by cutting the chicane at turn 12.
The Brazilian finished seventh ahead of Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi. The Force India pairing of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, on debut, rounded out the ten scoring positions.
Sauber duo Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi had finished seventh and eight but were later disqualified after their rear wings were found to be illegal.
Vettel: “Not easy”
But the race was dominated by the current World Champion who only relinquished the lead to Hamilton during the pitstop phase.
“I don’t think it was an easy race. The start was crucial and being on the clean side I had a very good getaway”, Vettel said.
“Yesterday was a very good day for us and the gap was big to Lewis and McLaren, but, nevertheless, it is a long, long season.
“I try to keep saying to the team that we have to keep our feet on the floor,” he said.
Hamilton, who finished over 20 seconds behind Vettel, said he was pleased with the team’s step up in performance over the weekend.
He said: “I think we can definitely take this and be very proud of ourselves. The guys did a great job coming into this weekend. Just a week or two ago we were not expecting to be anywhere near the top five.”
Hamilton had a largely uneventful race behind Vettel but the scrap behind them was as intense as ever.
At the start Vettel, Hamilton and Webber maintained grid order and were followed by Petrov and Massa who both gained several spots off the grid.
Button found himself held up behind the Ferrari driver and could not get passed until he cut the chicane on lap 11. Alonso seized on the squabble to overtake Massa two corners later.
McLaren Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh, said the team contacted the stewards for advice over what to do but received no response until a drive through penalty was ordered.
Rubens Barrichello also faced the wrath of the stewards for careering into the side of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes at turn three on lap 24 which forced the German to retire.
The incident summed up a poor weekend for the Mercedes team who lost Michael Schumacher two laps earlier due to damaged caused by a first lap collision with Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari.
“I had quite a good start but was then hit in turn three which punctured the right rear tyre and resulted in damage to the floor. As the damage was quite substantial, we decided to stop the car for safety reasons,” said the seven-times World Champion.
A poor race for the veterans of Formula 1 was in stark contrast to the impressive displays of debutants Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta.
Perez, 21, drove superbly to cross the line in seventh only to have it taken away from him after his car failed to pass post-race inspections. He managed to complete the race using a one-stop strategy while most of the field stopped two or three times due to the high wear rate of the new Pirelli tyres.
Speaking to the BBC before the disqualification, the Mexican said: “It was a dream start for me to finish in the points and to have such a nice race.
“To be honest we never thought we could do only one stop, we thought two or three. But I managed the tyres quite nicely, and I’m really happy for the team.”
Di Resta, 24, was one of the beneficiaries of Sauber’s demise as he joined a select group of drivers to score points on a maiden F1 outing, including Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
James Key, the Sauber F1 Team’s Technical Director, announced their intention to appeal.
Revised Race Classification:
|Pos||Driver||Team||Grid||Fastest lap||Race time||Points|
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1||1:29.844||1:29:30.259||25|
|5||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||3||1:29.600||+00:38.171||10|
|8||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||10||1:30.836||lapped||4|
|9||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||16||1:31.526||lapped||2|
|10||Paul Di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||14||1:31.941||lapped||1|
|11||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||12||1:30.467||lapped|
|15||Timo Glock||Virgin-Cosworth||21||1:35.789||retired, 49 laps|
|16||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||17||1:31.404||retired, 48 laps|
|17||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||7||1:33.503||retired, 22 laps|
|18||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||11||1:35.319||retired, 19 laps|
|19||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Renault||19||1:34.918||retired, 19 laps|
|20||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Cosworth||15||1:34.102||retired, 9 laps|