Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel got his title defence off to a perfect start with a pole-to-flag victory in the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton finished second to seal McLaren's turnaround in form but team-mate Jenson Button was sixth after being penalised for cutting a corner.

A brilliant start from Russian Vitaly Petrov propelled him to his first podium with third for Renault.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso jumped Mark Webber's Red Bull in his final pit stop to take fourth place from the Australian, who could only equal his career-best finish at his home race.

There was more frustration for Mercedes as both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg retired from the race.

It was a faultless race from the man intent on chasing Schumacher's record seven world championships as Vettel pulled clear at the start, stopped twice and always looked to have plenty in reserve as he controlled the race from the front.

"A stunning performance from the man who's led every lap of the last three grands prix," said BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle.

"That is a calm and steely Vettel, and frankly I don't think anyone was going to beat him."

Ominously for the rest of the field, team principal Christian Horner revealed after the race that neither of the Red Bull cars was running a Kers boost system.

"It was a fantastic day for Sebastian and the team, he was dominant in qualifying and totally dominant today," said Horner.

"We felt Kers was a potential risk, and we made a decision not to run it. It didn't look like we needed it."

Vettel himself insisted the race had not been as straightforward as it appeared.

"It was not easy, the start was crucial," he said.

"I had a good getaway, but didn't know if it was enough until I saw Lewis and Mark [Webber] battling for position.

"After my stop it was crucial to get past Jenson, which I could do immediately, so that was very, very important. There were a lot of things to learn today and we need to have another look at the race."

Australian Grand Prix result:
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault
2. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes
3. Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault
4. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari
5. Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault
6. Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes
7. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari
8. Sebastien Buemi (Sui) Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Full race report: BBC Sport