Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton in Australian GP

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel got his title defence off to a perfect start with a pole-to-flag victory in the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton finished second to seal McLaren's turnaround in form but team-mate Jenson Button was sixth after being penalised for cutting a corner.

A brilliant start from Russian Vitaly Petrov propelled him to his first podium with third for Renault.

Scot Paul di Resta finished with 12th for Force India on his debut.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso jumped Mark Webber's Red Bull in his final pit stop to take fourth place from the Australian, who could only equal his career-best finish at his home race.

There was more frustration for Mercedes as both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg retired from the race.

It was a faultless race from the man intent on chasing Schumacher's record seven world championships as Vettel pulled clear at the start, stopped twice and always looked to have plenty in reserve as he controlled the race from the front.

"A stunning performance from the man who's led every lap of the last three grands prix," said BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle.

"That is a calm and steely Vettel, and frankly I don't think anyone was going to beat him."

Ominously for the rest of the field, team principal Christian Horner revealed after the race that neither of the Red Bull cars was running a Kers boost system.

"It was a fantastic day for Sebastian and the team, he was dominant in qualifying and totally dominant today," said Horner.

"We felt Kers was a potential risk, and we made a decision not to run it. It didn't look like we needed it
Vettel himself insisted the race had not been as straightforward as it appeared.

"It was not easy, the start was crucial," he said.

"I had a good getaway, but didn't know if it was enough until I saw Lewis and Mark [Webber] battling for position.
"After my stop it was crucial to get past Jenson, which I could do immediately, so that was very, very important. There were a lot of things to learn today and we need to have another look at the race."

Hamilton hailed his second place as a great achievement for McLaren after the team's poor performance in pre-season testing.

Vettel had already built a 2.6-second lead at the end of the first lap while others toiled behind him.

Button found himself down in sixth after losing position to Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Petrov, who had brilliantly nosed his Renault up from sixth on the grid.

As the race developed Button tried time and again to pass Massa, activating the moveable rear wing designed to aid overtaking, but the Brazilian defended strongly and Button was left asking his team over the radio; "How's he getting away from me?"

There were more headaches to come for Button when he cut a chicane in an attempt to pass Massa and was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty.

"There's no question that he gained an advantage," said BBC analyst David Coulthard.