Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello gave Brawn GP a stunning debut one-two in the dramatic season-opening Australian Grand Prix, which finished behind the safety car after Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica tangled while fighting for second.
Button controlled the race from the outset, while Barrichello had to recover from a poor start and two collisions - only gaining second thanks to the late crash.
Tail-end starters Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Timo Glock (Toyota) also benefited from the incident to emerge in surprise third, fourth and fifth places.
Trulli's podium is in dispute, however, with McLaren suggesting that the Italian re-passed Hamilton under safety car conditions after sliding off the road during the caution.
While Button surged off the line into a clear lead at the start, his team-mate Barrichello got away extremely slowly after triggering the anti-stall system, and was in the lower reaches of the top ten by the first corner.
In his eagerness to recover the lost ground, Barrichello managed to tangle with both Mark Webber's Red Bull and Nick Heidfeld's BMW, leaving the latter with a puncture and causing Webber to spin into Kovalainen - who Barrichello felt had initially triggered the incident by tapping him from behind.
While Webber sustained a broken wing, Kovalainen was eliminated and Fernando Alonso had to drive across the grass in avoidance, Barrichello escaped with a slightly mangled wing and was able to continue in seventh. He would later remove another chunk of his wing on Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari while trying to fight back.
Button quickly established a four-second lead, but Red Bull driver Vettel was able to stabilise the gap at that level. They soon enjoyed a huge margin over the rest of the field, for the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Raikkonen had used their KERS boost to charge into third and fifth at the start, split by Kubica's BMW.
These three drivers had all opted to run short first stints on the soft tyres, and as the rubber faded, they began losing up to 5s per lap to the top two. By the time they had all pitted on lap 12, new third-place man Rosberg was half a minute adrift of Button and Vettel. The Williams would lose further ground with a left front wheel problem at its first pitstop.
Button and Vettel lost their advantage when the safety car was called on lap 19 - Williams's Kazuki Nakajima having crashed on the exit of Turn 4 while running a strong fourth on a long first stint strategy.
The safety car initially picked up Vettel rather than Button, leading to an extended delay while the pack was ordered. As the pitstops unfolded, Massa had moved back up to third, but he did not get close enough to Button and Vettel at the restart to use his KERS, and soon fell back to the midfield because his short first stint on softs forced him to make a very early final pitstop before the pack had strung out again following the safety car.
Button built his lead over Vettel back up to 5s in the next stint, only to lose it all with a slow final stop - rejoining just 1.5s ahead of the Red Bull, and with Kubica only 5s behind in third and unlike the leaders now on the medium compound tyres.
Kubica rapidly closed in on the leaders and attacked Vettel on the outside into Turn 3 with three laps to go. Neither was willing to give way, and they became entangled in the corner before both crashing on the next straight as their battered suspension gave way.
That gave Button and Barrichello a Brawn one-two after all - a staggering result for a team only rescued a month ago.
Trulli, Hamilton and Glock therefore appeared in the top five, ahead of Alonso and Rosberg, the latter losing more time when Nelson Piquet spun across his bows at the mid-race restart, and then when his soft tyres faded at the end.
Sebastien Buemi drove a highly impressive race on his debut to complete the scorers for Toro Rosso.
Ferrari's race fell apart in the closing stages. Massa slowed and retired, while Raikkonen spun into the wall and broke his front wing, before also parking in the garage with three laps to go.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Australian Grand Prix Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia; 58 laps; 307.574km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Button Brawn GP (B) 1h34:15.784 2. Barrichello Brawn GP (B) + 0.807 3. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1.604 4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 2.914 5. Glock Toyota (B) + 4.435 6. Alonso Renault (B) + 4.879 7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 5.722 8. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 6.004 9. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 6.298 10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 6.335 11. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 7.085 12. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) + 7.374 13. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap 14. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) + 2 laps 15. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 3 laps 16. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 3 laps Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:27.706 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Massa Ferrari (B) 46 Piquet Renault (B) 25 Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 18 Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1 World Championship standings, round 1: Drivers: Constructors: 1. Button 10 1. Brawn GP 18 2. Barrichello 8 2. Toyota 10 3. Trulli 6 3. McLaren-Mercedes 5 4. Hamilton 5 4. Renault 3 5. Glock 4 5. Williams-Toyota 2 6. Alonso 3 6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1 7. Rosberg 2 8. Buemi 1 All timing unofficial