Hello and welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. After what has felt like a long wait, it's almost time to go racing again.

We were already excited before the weekend got underway, but yesterday's qualifying session has really fuelled the fire. Lewis Hamilton took pole ahead of Jenson Button, with Romain Grosjean third and Michael Schumacher fourth. Sebastian Vettel could only qualify sixth and will have to dispel any lingering thoughts that he can't race in the pack today.

It's sunny and dry in Australia. Last year that might be disappointing news as rain can mix a race up, but the close nature of the grid means that I for one am happy we will get to see all of the cars driven to the limit. We saw a lot of errors yesterday with Vettel, Schumacher and Alonso all ending up in the gravel.

So the lack of exhaust-blown diffusers appear to be making the cars more difficult to handle, and we could see some great racing throughout the field today. Kimi Raikkonen starts all the way down in 17th place with his team-mate third, while the two Ferraris start outside the top ten. Two cars not starting, however, are the HRTs after both qualified outside the 107% time and stewards refused the team's request to race.

My eyes are on Schumacher at the start today. He had the best starting statistics on the grid last year, although that was usually because he started further back. Can he make progress from fourth on the grid and could we see his first podium since his return to Formula One?

If you want to send us your opinion on the race, the 2012 cars and anything else you want to talk about you can do so either by emailing us using the link above or via Twitter @ESPNF1.

The drivers have all been taking part in the traditional pre-season photogragh today, and looking along the front row you can see where some good driver partnerships could be had. Schumacher and Massa still get on well, Alonso and Webber are enjoying a chat, Button is joking with Vettel and both Lewis and Kimi like shades...

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Lots of excited followers on Twitter, and I'm one of them. A new team locking out the front row, a man with a point to prove in third, the seven-time world champion in fourth and the reigning champion having to climb through from sixth. What more could you want?!

Of course, being Formula One there has always been plenty of off-track controversy. The biggest bit revolves around Mercedes and its 'F-duct', which stalls the rear wing when the DRS is open. It will have less effect during the race, but Lotus and Red Bull are both known to be unhappy as they believe it is a driver-activated aerodynamic device. Lotus could appeal, but the FIA has so far deemed it legal.

We've got just over 15 minutes to go until lights out and it's a busy grid. While the sun is shining it's getting later in the afternoon so track temperatures are going to drop throughout the race. That could see some teams struggling to manage its tyres later in the race, and strategy is going to be crucial today with so many teams in the mix.

Being the start of a new season we'll just clarify a few points for you. With regards to tyres we have the medium (prime) and soft (option) compounds available, and both must be used at some point in the race. We also have two DRS zones this weekend; one on the pit straight and one between turns two and three. There's only one activation point though, so whenever a driver is within a second of the car in front he'll be able to use his DRS in both zones.

Robert in Darwin emails in his support: "Good luck Webber!! Bring home a win for all the Aussies!!"

Ferrari (@InsideFerrari) on Twitter: "Today the main target is bringing both cars in the top 10 positions". That could be a tall order with Alonso and Massa starting from 12th and 16th places respectively.

The start is going to be fascinating. No team orders between Hamilton and Button in to turn one, while Webber and Vettel will be side-by-side too. The tight nature of the first corner and the right-left combination normally leads to a few cars off-track too...

Force India (@ClubForce) on Twitter: "Geat atmosphere on the grid. 7 minutes till the green light. Should be a cracking race :)"

Right then, what are your predictions? I'm going to stick my neck out and back Button to win this. Also expecting a strong drive from Grosjean, who I tipped for a podium before this weekend started.

Sauber has looked quick in testing but had a difficult qualifying session, so it will be worth keeping an eye on Kobayashi coming through from 13th and Perez from 22nd.

We're away on the formation lap and only three drivers are on the medium tyres. They are Vergne in 11th, Petrov in 19th and Perez.

The excitement builds as Hamilton rounds the final corner and leads the field out on to the pit straight.

A lot of tense faces in the paddock. The grid is forming up and the lights are coming on...

Lap 1

Button beats Hamilton in to turn one, Schumacher jumps up to third and Rosberg flies in to fourth place! Vettel's up to fifth ahead of Grosjean. Great starts for Alonso up to eighth and Massa tenth.

Webber had a poor start and he radios in to say he thinks he has damage. Webber stays out. Hulkenberg spun in turn one and Senna has to pit after contact too. Ricciardo also in.

Lap 2

Vettel puts a great move around the outside of Rosberg in to turn ten. Fantastic pass.

Maldonado dives up the inside of Grosjean and the Lotus turns in, breaking his front right suspension against the rear of the Williams and he's out

Lap 3

Hulkenberg is out too. He's parked it at turn 11. Button leads by 2.4 seconds.

Webber and Hulkenberg made contact at turn one at the start, while Ricciardo and Senna came together

Lap 4

Replays show Grosjean did leave Maldonado space. Alonso found his way past Maldonado after that incident and is sixth now. Vettel on the back of Schumacher now for third

Lap 5

Button has extended his lead to 2.6s. DRS is enabled and Vettel is within the zone behind Schumacher.

Perez is up to tenth already, with Raikkonen 12th.

Maldonado runs wide at turn seven and loses places to Webber and Massa

Lap 6

Button extends his lead to 3.1s. Vettel is in the DRS zone and catching Schumacher but having opened the DRS he outbrakes himself in to turn one and runs wide. Rosberg comes down the outside but Vettel holds on to fourth. Alonso and Webber right behind them too

Lap 7

McLaren in a league of its own at the moment, over a second quicker than anyone else. Button leads by 3.3s, while Schumacher is 5.6 seconds behind Hamilton. Vettel already pulling away from Rosberg again.

Alonso holding on to the back of Rosberg and in the DRS zone at the end of the lap

Lap 8

No real challenge from Alonso though, while Webber is biding his time behind. They're 4.5s ahead of Massa, Maldonado and Perez.

Lap 9

Button now leads by 3.8s, while Schumacher has Vettel catching him rapidly, 0.8s the difference on that last lap.

Vettel close behind Schumacher now after a fastest middle sector. Replays show Maldonado passing Massa easily using DRS in to turn three

Lap 10

Perez and Massa close together and Massa holds on in to turn three. Good racing. Kobayashi and Raikkonen right behind them too. Perez is on mediums of course.

Di Resta is 1.6s behind that battle.

Lap 11

Vettel close behind Schumacher who runs wide at turn one and doesn't pick up pace again. He's crawling round and tumbling down the field.

Vettel up to third as Rosberg defends from Alonso

Lap 12

Massa has to pit as the Ferrari is using its rear tyres too quickly. Schumacher in to the pits and out of the race - he said he had third gear issues.

Raikkonen has found his way past Perez and is now ninth, Kobayashi still ahead of him so now seventh as Rosberg pits

Lap 13

Button leads by 3.4s as Vettel takes 0.4 out of Hamilton on that last lap. The Red Bull is quick in clear air.

Raikkonen is attacking Kobayashi who is struggling for grip

Lap 14

Alonso pits from fourth. Kobayashi and di Resta also in.

Vettel now 12.6s off the lead and the fastest man out there.

Raikkonen sets the fastest first sector now he's in clear air.

Lap 15

Webber has pitted, he had Maldonado catching him.

Raikkonen does a very impressive 1:33.0. That's over a second quicker than the McLarens at the front. He's half a minute off the lead though.

Alonso has jumped Rosberg in the pit stops

Lap 16

Vettel takes a second out of Button and Hamilton, with the McLarens starting to lose grip now. A slow first sector from Hamilton and Vettel takes a second out of him again - must have been an error.

Kobayashi with the fastest lap on fresh tyres.

Lap 17

Button and Vettel both pit, but Hamilton has a very slow lap. Maldonado in too. Raikkonen now third.

Vettel comes out just ahead of Alonso, who is on mediums. Vettel on softs

Lap 18

Hamilton in, and he'll hope to get out ahead of Vettel. He does, but he's come out behind Raikkonen and Perez. He's on medium tyres now too.

Button is on mediums too, Vettel the only man on softs at the front. Webber has set the fastest lap but is ninth as we wait for more pit stops.

Lap 19

Alonso struggling to get past Vergne but manages to using DRS in to turn three. Rosberg and Webber right behind. Vergne is yet to pit, as is Raikkonen in 2nd and Perez in 3rd.

Button leads by 6.4s. Rosberg and Webber get past Vergne. Hamilton 2.8s ahead of Vettel but beind caught.

Lap 20

Raikkonen pits from second. Perez still out there but holding up Hamilton who is now only 1.8s ahead of Vettel. That gap disappearing quickly, Vettel within a second now as Perez continues to hold off Hamilton.

Lap 21

Hamilton dives up the inside of Perez in to turn one, a good move using DRS. Vettel attacks around the outside in to three but Perez defends well. Vettel finds a way through out of turn 10

Lap 22

Button now leads by 11.4 seconds. Hamilton is 1.8s ahead of Vettel with Alonso right behind Perez. Rosberg behind Alonso, and Webber is just about there too. Maldonado is catching them all very quickly, but then its 10 seconds back to Massa in 9th

Lap 23

Alonso uses DRS to pass Perez in to turn one. Rosberg then uses the impressive Mercedes DRS to cruise past Perez ahead of turn three. Webber next to attack the Sauber.

Vettel is now 1.3s behind Hamilton and quicker than the McLarens. He's on softs though while Button and Hamilton on mediums

Lap 24

Button extends his lead to 11.8s. Vettel 1.2s behind Hamilton and matching pace. Alonso also matching them but he's 4.1s back.

It's not all plain sailing for Button though, he's just complained of vibrations on this set of tyres. A slower first sector for him too

Lap 25

Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race and takes a second out of Button. The gap down to 10.9s now. He pulls away from Vettel by 0.4s too.

Perez pits. His team-mate Kobayashi involved in a right battle with Massa and Raikkonen - he tries around the outside of the Ferrari in to turn three but is forced wide and Raikkonen finds a way through out of turn four with a slight bit of contact

Lap 26

Button really not happy on these tyres. Hamilton has the gap down below 10 seconds now and is just about bringing Vettel with him. Rosberg and Webber close together for fifth

Lap 27

A fastest lap from Hamilton is a 1:31.593, and he's pulled the gap over Vettel out to 2 seconds.

Raikkonen passes Massa in to turn one for eighth. He's competitive is Kimi. Kobayashi then takes advantage of an out of position Massa to pass on the run to turn three as well. Massa down to tenth

Lap 28

Button's pegged the gap at 9.5s. Hamilton still easing away from Vettel by 0.4s per lap. Alonso is 7 seconds behind Vettel with Rosberg and Webber within 3 seconds. Maldonado a second a lap quicker than the cars ahead and 2.6s behind Webber too

Lap 29

Massa's dropped behind di Resta and Vergne and has to pit - big tyre problems at Ferrari. Maldonado is having an excellent race, he's still catching Webber who is attacking Rosberg

Lap 30

As you were at the front, but behind them Maldonado has caught the back of Rosberg and Webber. A three way fight for fifth now. The Williams is on softs.

Raikkonen asks about blue flags that he can see, but is told they're not for him

Lap 31

Maldonado almost finds his way up the inside of Webber in to turn three. Webber complains on the radio that Rosberg is weaving. Side-by-side in to 11 and Webber forces Rosberg to outbrake himself and he cuts turn 12. The Mercedes then pits so Webber and Maldonado are released

Lap 32

Button did the fastest lap to extend his lead to 9.6s, but then Perez goes quickest and is 10th now as Rosberg comes out from behind him.

Lap 33

Another quick lap from Button and the gap is now 10.4s. Hamilton complains about his rear tyres and has Vettel just 2.2s behind him.

Webber with the fastest lap by far, a 1:31.0s. He's now 6.4s behind Alonso who is fourth. Maldonado and Raikkonen on a similar pace behind. Di Resta doing well up to ninth.

Lap 34

Button extends the lead to 10.8s. Vettel starting to edge back towards Hamilton while Webber closes the gap to Alonso to 5 seconds. Perez is one to watch though in ninth as he's trying to stop once more we believe

Lap 35

Alonso pits and puts on mediums. He comes out behind Perez who is on softs, so could technically go to the end of the race if he can make the tyres last. Unlikely though

Lap 36

Webber catching those in front of him with Maldonado 2.8s behind. Vettel is closing in on Hamilton now, the gap down to 1.5s.

Kimi's currently sixth and could be a threat to Alonso later in the race as the Lotus is looking after its tyres

Lap 37

Button pits, as does Hamilton. Line astern for McLaren and it's brilliantly done. No time lost and both drivers back out.

Petrov has parked his car on the inside of the pit straight and it needs moving.

Vettel pits and comes out ahead of Lewis Hamilton because the McLaren was restricted to the delta time on his screen.

Lap 38

Maldonado and Webber have pitted too and it means Webber is ahead of Alonso. Maldonado just behind.

Button asks about the Red Bull pace and is told it is similar to his own but that Button has a lot in hand due to having saved fuel

Lap 39

When we go racing again this could get fun. In a row are Button, Vettel, Hamilton and Webber. All backmarkers are allowed to unlap themselves so have got out of the way.

Lap 40

Only Perez, Vergne and Ricciardo are on soft tyres now. Sorry, only now are the lapped cars going past. They're all off and on their way, but it looks like one more lap behind the safety car.

Lap 41

Vettel is told he "can use the fuel, burn as much as you can". We're going to see the front two going hell for leather soon.

Kovalainen is wheeled back in to the garage and is out of the race. Both Marussias still running.

Lights are off, so safety car is in this lap. Button starts to back up the pack which is all in order. Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Maldonado.

Lap 42

A decent restart from Button, Hamilton closer behind Vettel but everyone holds position. No DRS for two laps.

In Red Bull-esque style, Button has absolutely bolted! He's a second quicker in the first sector as the McLaren gets temperature in its tyres more quickly.

Kobayashi passes Raikkonen in to turn three for ninth.

Lap 43

Button pulls out 2.5s on the first lap. Hamilton close behind Vettel but he has Webber behind him too. Raikkonen seemed a bit slow on the restart.

Lap 44

Button's set a new fastest lap and has a 3.4s lead already. Hamilton is a second a lap slower stuck behind Vettel.

Raikkonen complains about buts falling off the Sauber rear wing. Kobayashi has a loose end fence but is keeping Rosberg honest.

Lap 45

DRS is now enabled. Maldonado all over the back of Alonso for fifth place. Perez about a second behind the battle, same distance to Rosberg and Kobayashi. Massa's down in 13th.

Lap 46

Another fastest lap from Button, Vettel just 0.001s slower and Hamilton matching pace too. Alonso now three seconds behind Webber, who's keeping Hamilton honest

Lap 47

Hamilton with the fastest lap, the first man below 1m30s with a 1:29.8s. The pace is all so similar though, with Button just edging out to a four second lead. Webber is staying with them too.

Lap 48

Massa runs wide as Senna tries to pass him in turn four and they come together. Punctures for both and they are limping back to the pits. Senna gets a new set of tyres but Massa is out.

Maldonado still hustling Alonso for fifth. Vettel a second clear of Hamilton now. Webber the same gap back.

Lap 49

Hamilton edging back towards Vettel. 0.2s quicker in sector one. Button with a slow lap - over half a second slower than Vettel behind him but he responds to peg the gap at 3.5s

Lap 50

Maldonado still looking for a way past Alonso. Massa and Senna will be investigated after the race. The top four are covered by just 5.4s. Webber dropped back a touch but then pumps in the fastest lap of the race.

Di Resta loses out to the Toro Rossos in consecutive corners to drop to 13th

Lap 51

Button leads by 3.5s. Vettel, Hamilton and Webber covered by less than 2s but not really attacking each other

Lap 52

Webber with a fastest first sector. He suddenly looks like the quickest car out there.

Lap 53

Vettel's just done the fastest lap and taken 0.4s out of Button. This race isn't over yet. Webber right on the back of Hamilton now too.

Rosberg has Kobayashi right behind him, with Kamui having dived up the inside in to turn 13 but gone deep. Raikkonen right behind him, but Vergne's joined the party

Lap 54

Button's lead down to 2.9s. Hamilton 1.4s back and has Webber close behind. Button responding at the front. Vettel has an extra lap of life in his tyres.

Lap 55

Vettel with another fastest lap. Only 0.1s quicker than Button though. Hamilton dropping back a touch from Vettel.

Senna in the pits again from 15th place and he's in the garage. Out of the race.

Lap 56

Three laps to go and Button pulls out his lead to 3.2s. Hamilton and Webber take 0.3s out of Vettel too.

Lap 57

Button with the fastest lap, a 1:29.187. Gap now 3.6s. Can anyone make an impression on these last two laps?

Maldonado close behind Alonso. Still. Perez is holding up Rosberg having only pitted once. Kobayashi heading a queue including Raikkone and the two Toro Rossos

Lap 58

Button starts his final lap, and only Webber appears in striking distance of anyone at the front.

Maldonado has binned it attacking Alonso.

Button comes across the line to win for McLaren! Vettel comes home second ahead of Hamilton and Webber.

It's all going off further back! Rosberg crawling and Perez going backwards. Kobayashi up to sixth and Raikkonen passes Perez to take seventh. Then it's Perez, Ricciardo, Vergne and di Resta in a scrap for the line. Perez holds on for eighth ahead of Ricciardo and di Resta makes up three places on the final lap to take the final point!

Still unsure what happened that caused Rosberg to slow so much, replays show him passing Perez.

Button rolls up to the number one spot and is congratulated by Hamilton.

Just to fill in a few of the blanks at the end there, Maldonado dropped it getting the power down out of turn seven and hit the wall heavily. He's out of the car and fine though. Rosberg passed Perez around the outside on the exit of turn 10 but then slowed.

God Save the Queen rings out at Albert Park, and Button looks a very happy man indeed. He's continued the form that saw him secure the runner-up spot in the championship during the second half of last year.

A "very convincing" win as Laurence describes it to my left. Button nailed his start and then was generally quicker than Hamilton before showing he had the pace to keep Vettel at bay too. A good result for Vettel though from sixth on the grid, but Hamilton we disappointed not to convert pole.

The safety car may have cost Hamilton second - the double pit stop just prior to that seemed like the move that would hold off Red Bull - but he couldn't really make an impression in to Vettel at the end. The race finished with just 4.5 seconds covering the top four, and it looks like we're set for a hugely competitive season between McLaren and Red Bull. Ferrari can't be counted out either as Alonso showed his class to take fifth with what was another sublime drive. The best news? You don't have long to wait, Malaysia is next weekend!

Thanks for following and for your comments - apologies we didn't get to publish more - but make sure you stay on the site for all the reaction and join us on Friday for FP1 from Sepang. See you then.