Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel made a perfect start to his Formula One world title defence with a pole to flag victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 23-year-old German blasted off the grid and never looked troubled as he notched up his 11th career victory and third in a row going back to last season by 22.2 seconds from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
"Thank you boys, fantastic race. Really controlled, thank you very much. Very cool. Excellent car, excellent stops. We learned a lot today," Vettel said on his team radio after crossing the line.
"It wasn't an easy win, the start was crucial and obviously I got a good getaway," Vettel added in a news conference.
"The second part of the race, Lewis dropped off and I could control the situation a bit better.
"It's the first time I've finished in the Australian Grand Prix so I'm really happy," he added.
Hamilton again paid tribute to McLaren for a remarkable turnaround from a severely disrupted pre-season testing, although he did have to contend with a "massively damaged" floor for the latter part of the race.
"In the end. I was just nursing the car home to win the points because we are going to need them over the rest of the season," said the Briton, the 2008 winner here and world champion. "But I think we had good pace out there."
Renault's Vitaly Petrov claimed his and Russia's first ever podium in third place as the top three all ran two-stop strategies, despite the new Pirelli tyres which are supposed to degrade more quickly.
"I can't really believe I'm sitting here with these guys," he said, sat alongside Vettel and Hamilton at the post-race podium finishers media conference.
"The team should be very proud," he added.
Ferrari's twice world champion Fernando Alonso was fourth ahead of local hope Mark Webber in the other Red Bull after both took three stops.
McLaren's Jenson Button had an eventful afternoon after losing two places from fourth on the grid at the start, which effectively ended his chance of winning the race for the third year in a row.
Twice the Briton engaged in ding-dong battles with Ferrari's Felipe Massa, the first garnering him a drive-through penalty, before finishing sixth.
Rookie Sergio Perez was an impressive seventh for Sauber, the 59th driver to win points on his Formula One debut and first Mexican to score since Hector Rebaque in 1981.
His Japanese teammate Kamui Kobayashi was eighth, Brazilian Massa ninth while Swiss Sebastien Buemi took the last point for Toro Rosso in 10th place.
Mercedes had a miserable afternoon with German pair Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg lasting only a third of the race after being involved in collisions.
Williams's Rubens Barrichello served a drive-through penalty for crashing into Rosberg, while Schumacher said his car had been too badly damaged after his smash on the third corner of the race.
"A bit entertaining whatever 20 laps I did but it wasn't worth it and I think the team quite rightly decided for safety to come in and not risk anything," the seven-times world champion said.
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