Jenson Button claimed the checkered flag in Melbourne after dominating the first race of the Formula One season in the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

But hopes for a McLaren one-two punch were dashed by the Red Bulls' Sebastian Vettel. The reigning two-time world champion grabbed second place, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who started in the pole position and finished in third place.

Vettel's teammate Mark Webber came home fourth, despite looking like he might usurp Hamilton in the final laps.

The start at Albert Park proved decisive as Button jumped Hamilton going down into the first corner. From then on out, Button was imperious, never looking likely to relinquish his advantage.

Although far from their dominance of last season, the Red Bulls have been boosted by their performance in the actual race, after a disappointing qualifying session that saw them down in fifth and sixth places.

The Red Bulls' race pace suggested that they should be competitive with McLaren going forward. And with some superb driving on Sunday, Vettel showed, as if it needed proving, that he is a driver of the highest echelon and capable of winning even if he is not in a dominant car.

Another driver deserving of special mention is Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari was awful in qualifying, and in truth wasn't any better in the race. It was the sheer ability of Alonso that allowed him to drag the car up from 12th on the grid to a fifth-place finish.

The other story in Melbourne was of the rest of the pack closing the gap on each other as well as on the front of the grid.

The Mercedes entries looked very strong in qualifying, and if they are able to correct the problem of tire degradation, then they could be a real threat for race victories going forward.

Another team with positive signs to take from this weekend was Williams. Newcomer Pastor Maldonado was running in a superb sixth until he cruelly crashed out on the final lap

The Sauber team, too, looks to have made giant leaps forward since last year. Kamui Kobayashi finished sixth on Sunday, with Sergio Perez two places back.

Meanwhile, the Lotus squad will look to cement itself in the second pack of teams after backing up their positive winter testing with good pace in Melboune.

Although Romain Grosjean showed his inexperience by exiting the race early to squander his third place on the grid, Kimmi Raikkonen made up 10 places from the start to finish in a credible seventh spot.

All signs point to this being one of the most competitive and one of the most enthralling seasons for some time. Roll on Malaysia next weekend.