Kimi Raikkonen began Ferrari's post-Michael Schumacher era in the ideal fashion by taking a dominant victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
The McLarens were Raikkonen's closest challengers, with debutant Lewis Hamilton impressing mightily once again as he led his world champion teammate Fernando Alonso until the final pitstops.
While Raikkonen got away into a clear lead at the lights, Alonso had to defend from the fast-starting BMW-Sauber of Nick Heidfeld. As he tried to do so, the remarkable Hamilton swept to the outside and drove around his illustrious partner, taking third behind Heidfeld.
The BMW started the race on the softer tyres and would hold second until making an early first pitstop, by which time Heidfeld was already 11 seconds behind Raikkonen.
The McLarens were fuelled several laps longer than Raikkonen, but even with this strategic advantage they were unable to significantly close the gap on the leader.
Raikkonen led Hamilton by 12 seconds after the first stops were complete, and would add another six seconds to this margin during the middle stint to put victory out of McLaren's reach and clinch his first win since October 2005.
Hamilton appeared to have the measure of Alonso until the second pitstops, when Alonso made the most of running two laps further to leapfrog his young teammate - aided by Hamilton getting caught behind Takuma Sato on his in lap.
Robert Kubica was set for fourth, his long first stint working better than teammate Heidfeld's short early sprint, until a gearbox failure allowed his German teammate to inherit the place.
The BMW was comfortably clear of Giancarlo Fisichella on a muted weekend for the defending champion team.
Fisichella spent the final laps resisting Felipe Massa's charge from the back of the grid. The Ferrari made slow progress on a heavy one-stop fuel load, but the strategy eventually paid off and elevated him to sixth - albeit a lap behind his victorious teammate.
The extremely tight midfield pack produced a great race for the final two points. Mark Webber held seventh at first but faded in the middle stages and eventually finished 13th after a spin in the pit entry.
The Toyotas then moved into the top eight, but ultimately it was Williams' Nico Rosberg who snatched seventh after an excellent drive from 12th on the grid. A determined pass on Ralf Schumacher at Turn 9 cemented the position.
Schumacher took eighth ahead of teammate Jarno Trulli and Renault's Heikki Kovalainen, whose debut race was not as composed as fellow rookie Hamilton's.
A mid-race spin at Turn 1 spoiled Kovalainen's chances of a points finish, and a later trip across the grass at the same point left him 10th at the flag, albeit right on Trulli's tail.
Both came under pressure from Rubens Barrichello in the final laps. The works Honda managed to beat Takuma Sato's Super Aguri to 11th but both their teammates endured miserable afternoons.
Jenson Button was never on the pace and finished 15th after being penalised for speeding in the pitlane, while Anthony Davidson was left on the grid at the start and then tangled with Spyker's Adrian Sutil. But he would later set some promising laptimes on the way to 16th.
The race was relatively tranquil by Melbourne standards, with David Coulthard's spectacular tangle with Alex Wurz being the only notable incident.
The veteran admitted to over-optimism after a dive at Turn 1 ended with the Red Bull being launched over the front of Wurz's Williams.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Australian Grand Prix
Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia;
58 laps; 307.574km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1h25:28.770
2. Alonso McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 7.242
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 18.595
4. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 38.763
5. Fisichella Renault (B) + 1:06.469
6. Massa Ferrari (B) + 1:06.805
7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap
8. R.Schumacher Toyota (B) + 1 lap
9. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1 lap
10. Kovalainen Renault (B) + 1 lap
11. Barrichello Honda (B) + 1 lap
12. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) + 1 lap
13. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap
14. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
15. Button Honda (B) + 1 lap
16. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) + 2 laps
17. Sutil Spyker-Ferrari (B) + 2 laps
Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:25.235
Driver Team On lap
Wurz Williams-Toyota (B) 49
Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 49
Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 39
Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 29
Albers Spyker-Ferrari (B) 11
World Championship standings, round 1:
1. Raikkonen 10 1. McLaren-Mercedes 14
2. Alonso 8 2. Ferrari 13
3. Hamilton 6 3. BMW Sauber 5
4. Heidfeld 5 4. Renault 4
5. Fisichella 4 5. Williams-Toyota 2
6. Massa 3 6. Toyota 1
7. Rosberg 2
8. R.Schumacher 1
All timing unofficial