Button jumps ahead of team mate Hamilton at start and world champion Vettel takes second place.
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA (MARCH 18, 2012) (FOM) -Jenson Button ignored an incident-packed race behind him and calmly steered his McLaren to victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix ahead of world champion Sebastian Vettel on Sunday (March 18).
Button, who was second in the title race last year and on the grid on Sunday, made a perfect start to ease in front of Hamilton at the first corner and both then drove away from the opposition in the early laps.
Australians Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo were caught in the usual first corner crush, the former sandwiched between two rivals as he dropped from fifth to ninth and the latter's car spinning 360 degrees and taking out the Williams of Bruno Senna in the process.
World champion Sebastian Vettel, who started sixth on the grid, made the most of Webber's misfortune and by the end of lap two had passed Nico Rosberg with a superb move into fourth place behind the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
When seven-times champion Schumacher went off the track onto the grass on lap 10 to effectively end his race, Vettel swept through into third place and started trying to eat into the 10-second gap to the McLarens.
An opportune safety car when Vitaly Petrov's Caterham ground to a halt on the start-finish straight 20 laps from the end allowed the German to leap-frog Hamilton into second place.
But when the track was finally cleared at the end of lap 41, Button simply eased away from the world champion and took the chequered flag after one hour 34.09 minutes, 2.1 seconds in front of the German.
It was the Briton's third victory in four years at Albert Park, the 13th win of his career overall and he is the first driver other than Vettel to lead the championship since the German won the first of his two titles for Red Bull at the end of 2010.
Button's compatriot and team mate Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole, finished third to round out the podium while Vettel's team mate Mark Webber was fourth, his best ever finish in his 11th attempt to win his home race.
The sixth World Champion in the race Kimi Raikkonen, who has returned to Formula One from rallying, carved his way through the field from 17th on the grid to finish seventh in his Lotus and made up in part for his Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean's early exit.
The Frenchman had lined up third on the grid and was sixth when Maldonado overtook him and he ran wide, smashing his front
Ferrari's very poor qualifying form was dispelled by Fernando Alonso's race form, with the Spaniard driving a spirited race to finish fifth for Ferrari ahead of the Sauber of Japan's Kamui Kobayashi after Williams driver Pastor Maldonado crashed out spectacularly on the final lap while running sixth.
Mexican Sergio Perez had started right from the back after changing his gearbox overnight but finished eighth - the same place he claimed on his Formula One debut here last year before he and Kobayashi were disqualified for technical infringements.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth on his home race debut for Toro Rosso despite an accident at the start, while the last point was won by Force India's Paul Di Resta in 10th.
Six cars retired from the race, including the departure of Petrov, which effectively cost Hamilton second place.
"It was a bit of a tough day but there are plenty more races ahead so I'll just have to keep my head down," said Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, who finished third.
"I'm very happy to come away with second, it's a lot of points. I think a lot of people would not have expected that after the result of yesterday. I think we had a better car in the race and the car seems to have a lot of potential," said Vettel.
"We've had a strong winter," winner Button said, referring to the team's design and testing of their new car. "Yesterday's qualifying really showed that, so it is nice to come away with a victory today - first race of the new season."
Australian Formula One Grand Prix provisional result from Albert Park, Melbourne on Sunday
1. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:34:09.565
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault +00:02.139
3. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 00:04.075
4. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:04.547
5. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 00:21.565
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber - Ferrari 00:36.766
7. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 00:38.014
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico)Sauber - Ferrari 00:39.458
9. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 00:39.556
10. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 00:39.737
11. Jean-Eric Vergne (France)Toro Rosso - Ferrari 00:39.848
12. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 00:57.642
13r. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1 lap
14. Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia - Cosworth1 lap
15r. Charles Pic (France) Marussia - Cosworth5 laps
16r. Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams - Renault 6 laps
r. Felipe Massa (Brazil)Ferrari 12 laps
r. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham - Renault 20 laps
r. Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham - Renault 24 laps
r. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 48 laps
r. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault57 laps
r. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 58 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)
Fastest Lap: Jenson Button,1:29.187, lap 56.