Two weeks later than scheduled, the 2011 F1 season finally got underway in Melbourne with a mix of the expected and less so, with Sebastian Vettel picking up where he left off in 2010 and some of the sport's newest arrivals showing that they mean business.
Although Red Bull Racing was unable to complete a clean sweep through practice, Vettel and the RB7 were definitely the dominant force 'down under', heading every phase of qualifying and then claiming pole position by a massive eight-tenths of a second. And, once he had made a clean getaway at the start of the race, it was only reliability - something that has not bothered RBR during the winter - that could deny him a first finish, and victory, in Australia.
But does that performance mark the reigning world champion out as the star of the weekend? Were there others, racing in different circumstances that deserve the accolade?
Lewis Hamilton proved to be Vettel's closest competition, confirming that McLaren's frantic redesign efforts since the second Barcelona test had paid dividends. The Briton put in a sterling qualifying lap to split the two Red Bulls and then kept the leader honest until a problem with the floor of his MP4-26 slowed his progress mid-race. Despite that, Hamilton had enough in hand to ensure second place.
Local hero Mark Webber should, on early form, have completed the podium but, despite qualifying third - an effort he was disappointed with - the Australian's three-stop strategy and a suspected chassis problem dropped him to a frustrated fifth.
Onto the final step of the podium, therefore, came the unexpected form of Vitaly Petrov. The Russian qualified a solid sixth, but a blinding start had him going down the inside at turn one, picking up two places in the process. With those behind losing time as they battled, Petrov was able to keep the Renault in fourth, and was ideally placed to pick up a place when Webber made his third stop. As a fillip for a team stung by the injury to team leader Robert Kubica, the result couldn't have been much better.
Fernando Alonso was quiet all weekend, not able to run to the pace of the Red Bulls, and only slipping into fourth at the end as his late race pace was better than Webber's, while Felipe Massa proved to be little more than a mobile road block in the early stages, denying Jenson Button a shot at the podium and eventually leading to the Briton earning himself a drive-thru' penalty that restricted him to sixth at the flag.
Massa should have been ninth on the result sheet, but was promoted to seventh well after the race had finished as both Saubers were disqualified for technical infringements. While the Brazilian's performance - despite setting fastest lap at the end - probably doesn't do his position at Ferrari much good, should the scrutineers' decision to exclude both Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi detract from their personal achievements? Perez, in particular, was impressive as he nursed his Sauber home on a single tyre stop.
Sauber's exclusion promoted not only Massa to seventh, but Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi to eighth and Force India duo Adrian Sutil and rookie Paul di Resta into the points - are those performances worthy of merit?