Jenson Button celebrates victory in the Australian Grand Prix, his third Melbourne win in four years.

Story highlights

Jenson Button dominates season-opening Australian Grand Prix for McLaren

2009 world champion Button claims his third Melbourne victory in four years

Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel is second with Lewis Hamilton third

Local favorite Mark Webber and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso complete the top five

CNN  — 

Jenson Button underlined the potential strength of the McLaren-Mercedes in 2012 with a convincing victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, the opening race of the new Formula One season.

Button had a quicker start than teammate and fellow-Briton Lewis Hamilton, who was on pole position, and never looked likely to relinquish his advantage, despite the intervention of the safety car giving some brief hope to world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel overtook Hamilton after the safety car was deployed on lap 38 when the Caterham of Vitaly Petrov stalled on the track and, for a moment, the German’s Red Bull threatened to catch Button.

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But 2009 champion Button began pulling away once again and took the chequered flag a comfortable 2.1 seconds ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton a further 1.9 seconds adrift in third position.

Vettel’s teammate, local favorite Mark Webber, ensured McLaren and Red Bull took the first four places, while two-time world champion Fernando Alonso produced a superb drive to finish fifth for Ferrari, despite starting a lowly 12th on the grid.

Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi finished an impressive sixth for Sauber while 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen came home seventh in his Lotus on his return to the sport after two years in rallying.

The second Sauber of Mexican Sergio Perez finished eighth while Daniel Ricciardo ensured both Australian drivers ended up in the points by securing ninth place for Toro Rosso, just ahead of Force India’s Paul Di Resta.

Button, who has now won at Melbourne in three of the last four years, told the official Formula One website: “Every win means a lot and, for us as a team, it really shows how important the winter is.

“We’ve had a strong winter, Saturday’s qualifying really showed that, so it’s nice to come away with a victory in the first race of the new season.”

Vettel, who is bidding to win a third successive world title, was philosophical in defeat, adding: “Jenson drove a fantastic race and was unbeatable, but I’m very happy to finish second, it’s a lot of points.

“I think a lot of people would not have expected that after our performance in qualifying but I think we had a better car in the race and it seems to have a lot of potential,” added Vettel.