Melbourne: McLaren's Jenson Button won the Australian Grand Prix in a thrilling start to the season on Sunday as he held off two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel in second place. (Agencies)
The 32-year-old Englishman started second on the grid but took advantage of a slow getaway by his pole-sitting teammate Lewis Hamilton to take the lead at the first corner, and then controlled the race all the way to the flag.
Hamilton, struggling for the pace he exhibited as he flew to pole on Saturday, finished third behind Red Bull's defending double world champion Sebastian Vettel, who climbed from sixth on the grid.
Vettel's recovery - aided by a timely safety car intervention - that he and his team are not to be taken lightly will be locked into what looks like a close championship battle with McLaren.
"That was beautiful, just a perfect start and it shows how good a winter can be," said Button. "A great start to the year for me and the team."
It was the 2009 world champion's third win in four years at the Australian Grand Prix, and the 13th of his career.
Local hero Australian Mark Webber came home fourth to deliver his best finish at his home race in the second Red Bull.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was fifth after a forceful race from 12th on the grid, following a disappointing qualifying performance on Saturday, ahead of Japanese Kamui Kobayahsi of Sauber.
The 2007 champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who started 18th on the grid, came home seventh for Lotus in his first race after a two-year absence in rallying, and Mexican Sergio Perez was eighth for Sauber.
Australia's second entrant Daniel Ricciardo finished in the points on his debut with the Toro Rosso team by taking ninth position in a dramatic finish ahead of Briton Paul Di Resta, 10th for the Force India team.
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Germany was an early retirement in his Mercedes.
Melbourne: McLaren's Jenson Button won the Australian Grand Prix in a thrilling start to the season on Sunday as he held off two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel in second place.