World Champion Michael Schumacher kicked off his title defence with an impressive performance at Albert Park as he cruised to victory for Ferrari in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. All the pre-season hype about a close Championship battle this season was blown away by Schumacher as he showed a dominant pace in the mild conditions at Melbourne to lead home a Ferrari one-two ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
His rivals were nowhere. Kimi Raikkonen, last year's runner up, failed to complete even ten laps of the race before retiring while the performance of the Williams team proved disappointing.
Both their drivers, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, were beaten to third by the Renault of Spaniard Fernando Alonso as they battled home to fourth and fifth places respectively. But even Alonso was more than half a minute behind the victorious Ferrari pairing, who crept their cars around the track in celebration as they headed towards parc ferme
Michael Schumacher - 1st: "A perfect race but a tough one in the early stages, when Rubens was pushing me hard. That made it exciting and I could not afford to make a mistake. The car was going well, it's a step forward and more consistent to drive. It is great to leave Australia with 2 more points than I had after the first three races last year.
Rubens Barrichello - 2nd: "I was happy with my start and it gave me a chance to run deep into the first corner and try and pass Michael, but I decided the move was too risky. Then I tried again at Turn 3, but there was no way round. I kept on pushing him hard and closed up when he got delayed a bit in traffic. But by then, I started having brake problems, although I kept pushing and trying to pass him up to the point of the second pit stop. But after the stop, the brakes did not seem to have cooled very much and I had a very long pedal so from then on I backed off.
Fernando Alonso - 3rd: "I made a great start, even though Montoya forced me onto the grass. After he out-braked himself at the first corner, I found myself third and from then on, it was a pretty easy race. I was too slow to be able to fight with the Ferraris, but I managed to pull out a gap to Jenson and the Williams.
Ralf Schumacher - 4th: "Of course I cannot be happy with today's result, even if, after all, I have made up four places from my starting position and I have collected some points for the team. We were on a good strategy and the team did an excellent job in the pits. Worrying is the fact is that at this race,we are missing one second from Ferrari, which I didn't expect and I believe this is down mainly to the design of their car as well as to some tyre graining for us, which we have to overcome.
Juan Pablo Montoya - 5th: "I didn't take advantage at all of my third place on the grid, since right after the start I was trying to defend my position from Alonso and I went off track, losing four places. After that, I spent my race trying to find the right moment to overtake the cars in front of me.
David Coulthard - 8th: "It has really been an unsatisfying weekend for us and the one point we achieved today is a very small consolation. I made a good start and gained a few places but eighth was all we could do. We are not where we want to be, but we will work very hard on getting there and hopefully should be able to improve for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a few weeks."
Kimi Raikkonen - DNF: "I'm very disappointed with our performance this weekend, but hopefully we can do better in the next race. I stalled at the start and lost a few places but managed to regain most of them during the first couple of corners. The car felt good, but unfortunately it didn't last very long, and I retired with an engine failure - definitely not the best way to start the season."
Ross Brawn (Ferrari): "We are delighted with this great start to the season. It is a fantastic result, which is down to the work everyone has done. The team is getting even stronger, with everyone working even harder than ever. Having partners like Bridgestone and Shell is a great help. Before the first race, one never knows just how competitive one will be. Despite all our success over the past few years, there is always a little bit of doubt. This win will certainly give us a further incentive to do even better in the forthcoming races."
Jean Todt (Ferrari): "It was a grandiose performance from Ferrari, crowned with an equally grandiose result. The championship has got underway with a dream event. After several years of success obtained after so many battles, to start the season with such a clear superiority, I have above all to thank everyone at Ferrari, from President Montezemolo to every last one of them who has worked hard for this result.
Sam Michael (Williams), Chief Operations Engineer: "Juan obviously had a big moment in the first corner and lost some positions. Then he spent the rest of the race making up from there. Meanwhile, Ralf gained two places at the start. Our performance today was not really enough compared to Ferrari or Renault but it is far from a bad result either. We have got both cars in the points and we come away from Australia with second place in the championship. Now we are looking forward to the hot tracks in Malaysia and Bahrain
Ron Dennis (McLaren): "To say it was a difficult weekend for the team would be somewhat of an understatement. Our poor performance was amplified by the low ambient temperatures which certainly didn't favour any of the Michelin runners. We believe we have an understanding of the areas which need to be improved and only a careful analysis and a team driven recovery plan will resolve our problems."
Norbert Haug (Mercedes): "Our target has been to go for wins from the very first race, and we didn't achieve this today. Our technical package has to be improved and everybody in the team knows what is required. In two weeks in Malaysia we all want to see an upwards trend. Kimi's engine failure will be investigated and we will tell the media the result afterwards."