Official Race Review from F1
Michael Schumacher cruised to victory as Ferrari kicked off the season with an imperious 1-2 at Albert Park.
In truth, Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were so much quicker than the rest of the field, led by Renault's Fernando Alonso, that it was almost embarrassing.
Schumacher even came within a matter of yards of lapping Juan Pablo Montoya in the closing stages, before backing off and nursing his car to the line.
He will be delighted to have made such a positive start to his title defence, especially as supposed title rivals Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen had wretched afternoons.
The Colombian could do no better than fifth, while his future McLaren team-mate retired early on.
It was always likely that the Ferraris would disappear into the distance from the point both cars got off the start flawlessly.
Behind them, someone obviously forgot to tell Renault that launch control has been banned because both Alonso and Jarno Trulli got away phenomenally. The Spaniard leapt to third with the Italian moving up to fifth.
Alonso's swift getaway so worried Montoya that the Colombian outbraked himself at turn one and ran wide, dropping down to eighth.
Montoya soon made partial amends by muscling past Ralf Schumacher for seventh and later pulled off memorable moves on Trulli and Jenson Button.
But the Colombian’s good work was undone by two delays at pitstops, meaning he had to work harder than he would have liked for a mere fifth place.
It might have been very different had he not messed up his start so Montoya will be kicking himself.
As ever, team-mate Ralf did his job in a more understated manner and passed Button in the pits on his way to a distant fourth. The German looked pretty out of sorts – but then again, so did everyone else next to the Ferraris.
Schumacher and Barrichello traded fastest laps in the early stages before easing off after the first round of pitstops.
The German only really asserted his superiority after his second stop, by which time Rubens was beginning to suffer from brake problems.
Barrichello’s second place was never under threat, though, as the Michelin runners had problems of their own. All the French tyre manufacturer’s teams suffered from severe graining in the cool conditions.
For that reason, it was no surprise that Alonso emerged as the pick of the bunch because the Renault seems much kinder on its rubber than the others.
Jenson Button’s BAR suffered worse than most and the Brit had to settle for sixth place, ahead of Trulli’s Renault.
After his barnstorming performance in qualifying, Button had probably hoped for more but it still represents the first time in five attempts he has scored points at the opening race of the year.
BAR at least had the consolation of outpacing McLaren who can’t have had many weaker races than this in recent years.
David Coulthard, the only leading driver to opt for a two rather than three-stop strategy, finished eighth but never remotely threatened the cars ahead.
Team-mate Raikkonen spun out of the race on lap 10 after his engine seized up. The Finn had been struggling to make an impression anyway, running 11th and even suffering the ignominy of being passed by Felipe Massa's Sauber.
It is unlikely the Finn stuck around to watch the rest of the race – but he wouldn’t have missed much anyway.
It was the sort of one-sided race that became all too familiar in the dark days of 2002 – great if you’re a Ferrari diehard, purgatory if you simply want to see good racing.
It seems unthinkable that people were predicting only last week that this would be one of the closest seasons on record.
Don’t despair just yet, though – there are still 17 races to go and weather conditions at the next two should benefit the Michelin runners.
But Ferrari have thrown down the gauntlet in dramatic style and at the moment their rivals don’t seem to have any answer.