Vitaly Petrov, the man Fernando Alonso couldn't overtake in Abu Dhabi last year, said he was "totally ecstatic" after he became the first Russian ever to stand on an F1 podium by taking his Renault to third place.
"I made a great start today, which was probably the key for my race because it got me ahead of Alonso and Button," he said. "I was able to run in some clean air and push hard, as well as looking after my tyres. Our two-stop strategy was clearly the right decision and we made it work."
Alonso deflected mention of the fact that he also followed Petrov home here as "coincidence", brought about when Button held him to the outside of the first corner at the start and cost him several places. He fought back to fourth, but admitted: "If you just look at the classification, this is not such a bad result. Yes, we have lost ground to Vettel and Hamilton, although we have done better than Webber and Button. Here at Albert Park, it seems that I have a season ticket for fourth place, as it's the third time in four years that I've finished the race in this position.
"Vettel seemed to be on another planet, while the others were a bit closer, not to the extent they were on Friday, but at least not as far off as in qualifying yesterday. Finishing behind Petrov again like in Abu Dhabi? True, but it's more satisfying to have managed to keep Webber behind me. I reckon he will be a more serious rival in the title fight."
This was a disastrous day for Webber, the local hero. He just failed to beat Hamilton into second place leaving the grid, but later slipped back after being the first to change tyres on the 15th lap.
"I wasn't quick today and it was the same in qualifying yesterday," he admitted, "so we need to understand the reason why. There wasn't much else I could do today. I lost the last position to Fernando during the pit stops and that was it really. It was very frustrating.
"Seb drove a good race, in terms of what the car can do, but it's not normal for me not to go and match the rhythm at the front. I should be able to stay with these guys, but today I finished a long way behind.
"It was a tough race and I was pushing as hard as I could, but I wasn't getting much back. I was in a different race to Sebastian today, so we had to do different things. I was in trouble with the tyres much sooner than he was, so we need to have a look why."
Jenson Button was another left to rue what might have been. "I got an OK start," the McLaren driver said, "but I was surprised to see Vitaly up the inside – he got a very good start and forced me wide. Then I got stuck behind Felipe because I got a very poor exit out of Turn One, and that was the worst move of my race, because he was so slow and difficult to overtake. He slowed us both down massively. I tried to overtake him around the outside of Turn 11. I was in front before we turned in, but he went really deep into the corner and pushed me wide so that I couldn't take my normal line.
"After my drive-through penalty I had to fight my way back, which was fun but also frustrating. I just wish I could have got the best out of it today, but at least Lewis did a good job."
Twelfth place on the road became 10th and a point for rookie Paul di Resta when the Saubers were excluded. "Adrian [Sutil, his Force India team-mate] and I were on different strategies and we had to conserve fuel toward the end that's why the gap opened up. I think we used too much going to the grid. I made a few mistakes, and there's a lot going on in the cockpit and I need to make small changes to the layout. But, overall, I'm pretty happy with the result."
FIA Formula One Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia:
1 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1hr 29mins 30.259secs
2 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:29:52.556
3 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:30:00.819
4 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:30:02.031
5 M Webber (Aus) Red Bul 1:30:08.430
6 J Button (GB) McLaren 01:30:24.563
7 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:30:55.445
8 S Buemi (Swit) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap
9 A Sutil (Ger) Force India at 1 lap
10 P Di Resta (GB) Force India at 1 lap
11 J Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 lap; 12 N Heidfeld (Ger) Renault at 1 lap, 13 J Trulli (It) Lotus F1 at 2 laps; 14 J d'Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 4 laps. Not classified: 15 T Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 49 laps completed; 16 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 48 laps; 17 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 22 laps; 18 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 19 laps; 19 H Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 19 laps; 20 P Maldonado (Ven) Williams 9 lap. Disqualified: S Perez (Mex) Sauber and K Kobayashi (Japan). World Championship Standings: Drivers: 1 S Vettel 25pts; 2 L Hamilton 18; 3 V Petrov 15; 4 F Alonso 12; 5 M Webber 10; 6 J Button 8; 7 F Massa 6; 8 S Buemi 4; 9 A Sutil 2; 10 P di Resta 1. Manufacturers: 1 Red Bull 35; 2 McLaren 26; 3 Ferrari 18; 4 Renault 15; 5 Scuderia Toro Rosso 4; 6 Force India 3.Reuse content