Vettel wins in Melbourne
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday from Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov.
By Michael Wise
Last Updated: 31/03/11 11:13am
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel picked up where he left off on Sunday by winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Red Bull driver took last year's title after winning three of the last four races and improved his record after dominating in Albert Park from pole position.
He took the chequered flag ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, with Renault's Vitaly Petrov scoring his first podium placing with third.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished fourth ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber, with McLaren's Jenson Button coming home sixth ahead of Sauber rookie Sergio Perez and his team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.
However, both Perez and Kobayashi were later excluded from the results because the rear wings of their cars broke technical regulations.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was therefore promoted to seventh ahead of Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi pending the result of the Sauber team's appeal.
Scotland's Paul Di Resta might also claim a point on his Formula One debut, after initially being classified 12th behind Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil.
The first race of a new season always brings questions, not only concerned with the competitiveness of teams and drivers but also of how rule changes might affect the racing.
The effect of F1's new Pirelli tyres on race tactics was one such question and it seemed in Albert Park at least that the wear rate was not that which had been expected.
At least three stops had been predicted, which is what Webber and Alonso managed. However, Vettel, Hamilton and Petrov made two, while Perez needed just the one.
The question of the new moveable rear wing and whether it might produce more overtaking remains open to debate after Sunday's race, however.
There was no doubting Vettel's performance, though - one made all the more impressive by Red Bull electing not to use their KERS power boost system after it suffered problems.
Having taken pole on Saturday by almost eight tenths of a second, he streaked off the line ahead of Hamilton, who was briefly passed by Webber on the run down to turn one.
Meanwhile, Petrov rose from sixth on the grid to fourth while Massa came up from eighth to fifth ahead of Button, Nico Rosberg, Kobayashi, Alonso and Di Resta.
Alonso, who ran wide exiting turn one, took eighth from Kobayashi on lap two while Button swarmed all over the back of Massa but could not make use of his rear wing to get past the Ferrari on the start-finish straight.
Alonso closed up on the pair of them and with Button taking to an escape road to pass Massa on lap 12, Alonso also nipped past his team-mate.
He pitted on lap 13, one lap after Webber, with Massa stopping on lap 14. Vettel then stopped as well, having led Hamilton by just over a second.
Running third, Button was then handed a drive-through penalty for his move on Massa. Although he tried to play the willing team-mate and keep Vettel behind him after the latter's stop, Hamilton still rejoined behind the leading Red Bull after he came in on lap 16.
Button fell to sixth after serving his drive-through two laps later and was back in 12th after making his tyre stop on lap 20.
Vettel held a seven-second lead over Hamilton by lap 22, with Webber another 10 seconds further back and Petrov fourth.
That same lap brought the retirement of Michael Schumacher, who fell to the back of the field after suffering a right rear puncture on the opening lap which also caused suspension problems.
Mercedes GP's already bad weekend then got worse when Rosberg pulled off the track after his car suffered damage sustained in a collision with Rubens Barrichello - the Williams driver also penalised with a drive-through penalty.
Button was among those to profit from their altercation and he then passed Kobayashi to take seventh place on lap 25.
Webber dropped to fifth after making his second stop one lap later, with Alonso rejoining behind him after pitting on lap 28 and Massa placed eighth after coming in four laps later.
Hamilton then ran wide at turn one, with the resulting damage to the floor of his car forcing him to ease his pace during the closing laps. He, Vettel and third-placed Petrov all pitted again at the start of lap 37.
The Russian fell to fifth, with Vettel now leading Hamilton, Webber and Alonso. Button ran sixth ahead of Massa, Sutil, Perez and Kobayashi but lost a place after stopping on lap 38.
Webber fell to fifth after coming in again on lap 42, although a poor out lap meant that he lost a place to Alonso when the Ferrari pitted the following lap.
The Australian tried to take the place back using the moveable rear wing but the fact the Red Bull was not running KERS helped Alonso stay ahead, despite the Ferrari also running the harder compound tyre.
Button took sixth place back from Massa on lap 48, who stopped one lap later and fell to 10th behind Perez, Kobayashi and Buemi before passing the Toro Rosso with four laps to go.
Elsewhere, Petrov's impressive performance was brought into sharper focus by the fact his team-mate Nick Heidfeld could only finish one lap down in 14th place.
Barrichello, meanwhile, eventually called it a day with 10 laps remaining while his rookie team-mate at Williams, Pastor Maldonado, retired on lap 10.
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1hr 29mins 30.259secs, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:29:52.556, 3 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:30:00.819, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:30:02.031, 5 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:30:08.430, 6 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:30:24.563, *7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:30:36.104, *8 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber 1:30:47.131, 9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:30:55.445, 10 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap, 11 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India at 1 lap, 12 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India at 1 lap, 13 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap, 14 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault at 1 lap, 15 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 at 2 laps, 16 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 4 laps Not classified: 17 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 49 laps completed, 18 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 48 laps completed, 19 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 22 laps completed, 20 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 19 laps completed, 21 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 19 laps completed, 22 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 9 laps completed
* disqualified pending result of appeal
Drivers' championship: 1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 25pts, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 18, 3 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 15, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 12, 5 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 10, 6 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 8, 7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber 6, 8 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber 4, 9 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 2, 10 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1, 11 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 0, 12 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 0, 13 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 0, 14 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 0, 15 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus F1 0, 16 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 0, 17 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 0, 18 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 0, 19 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 0, 20 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 0, 21 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 0, 22 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 0
Constructors' championship: 1 Red Bull 35pts, 2 McLaren 26, 3 Renault 15, 4 Ferrari 14, 5 Sauber 10, 6 Scuderia Toro Rosso 1, 7 Force India 0, 8 Lotus F1 0, 9 Virgin Racing 0, 10 Williams 0, 11 Mercedes GP 0