The recipe for a great F1 race has always been the same.
Much like any celebrated novel, the most important ingredients are found in the careful expansion of various plots and sub-plots, the development of central characters, and the maintenance of tension and suspense.
The story of an F1 season is told in chapters – of which there are 19 this year – and with the first few pages now having been written, there can be no doubt that this season will have fans clamouring for the next installment right up to the final few lines.
Set in the Australian metropolis of Melbourne, amongst surfers, street lights and the sprawl of office buildings, the first twist of 2013 was that the sun was absent from qualifying, leaving most to guess at the true running order from the tantalising glimpse provided by practice and the rain-affected Q1.
Q2 and 3 appeared to answer the most important question posed by the prologue of pre-season testing; that Red Bull
had the quickest car, and that Vettel once again was to charge away from pole position to victory, with his rivals left in his wake.
The disappointing performance of the McLarens contrasted with the upturn in pace of the Mercedes, with the sub-plot of Lewis Hamilton's move from the Woking-based team to the Silver Arrows providing much-needed depth to an apparently predictable story-line.
This cosy script was thrown out for the race however, with it quickly becoming clear in the opening laps that whilst the Red Bulls had the upper-hand in a sprint, it was the Prancing Horses and a small selected cast that had trained for the marathon.
Sebastian Vettel started well, but gradually fell back into the clutches of Felipe Massa
and Fernando Alonso, and the slow-starting Mark Webber
ended the first lap well down the field in seventh. In what seems to be becoming a tradition for the Aussie, he was to experience KERS issues throughout the race, and faded into obscurity at his home Grand Prix.
The main plot came alive after the first round of pit-stops, with Kimi Raikkonen
able to stretch out his second stint as his rivals struggled with tyre degradation. His unique two-stop strategy proved the beating of those three-stopping around him, and the Finn climbed back up the order as the rest of the front-runners pitted for a third and final time, paving the way for a comfortable route to victory in the final stages of the race.
An immaculate drive led him to his second win since his comeback to the sport, and provided confirmation that Lotus has made a definitive step forward for the new season, and will undoubtedly be real contenders in the title-race.