Jenson Button revels in dream start to 2012 after Australia win

Jenson Button hailed his victory in the Australian Grand Prix as a "dream start" to the new Formula 1 season.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished third, after starting on pole, to underline McLaren's competitiveness.

"It was very important for us to get this one in the bank early on," said Button, whose lead went unchallenged after he jumped Hamilton off the line.

"We haven't been so strong at this point in the season before, so all in all a great day."

In contrast to the last three years, McLaren emerged strongly from pre-season testing and made it count at the opening race in Melbourne.

The Woking-based team locked out the front row in qualifying and Button coasted to victory after passing Hamilton off the line.

"For the last couple of years our first races have been tricky," said Button. "I'd say we've been pretty dominant today.

"It's an amazing way to start the season.

"As a team, the win shows how important the winter is. The guys have done an amazing job. This win will definitely help them push hard in the extra hours they are doing."

Button believes the race also highlighted the increased competition throughout the field in 2012.

"We all think this is a very special year in Formula 1, having six world champions and so many competitive teams," the 2009 champion added.

"It's great to see F1 is in a great place at the moment. I'm very excited heading to [the next race in] Malaysia."

After passing Hamilton off the start, Button quickly built a lead and was unchallenged until the safety car came out on lap 37 and closed up the pack of cars.

Sebastian Vettel pitted under the safety car and came out ahead of Hamilton, who had been running in second, but Red Bull's world champion conceded he had no chance of catching Button after the restart.

"I thought I would be in a good position to have a go at Jenson but two corners and he was gone," said Vettel.

"It wasn't very easy to get away from Lewis but Jenson was out of sight. He deserved to win."

Hamilton was left to rue not only Vettel's clever strategy under the safety car but a poor start to the grand prix.

"It was a shocking start," said Hamilton, who had been determined to put a mixed 2011 season behind him in the new campaign.

"I'm not sure what happened. I let out the clutch and got a lot of wheel spin. That followed all way through the launch phase. We lost a lot of ground from there and the safety car didn't help us.

"It's still a great job by Jenson. Clearly we're very quick so we go forward to the next race in good shape."

When asked whether McLaren are now the dominant team, Hamilton responded: "It's too early to tell.

"In qualifying, we're quick and competitive but Red Bull were massively quick in race so they're still a force to be reckoned with."

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh summed up the race weekend as "nearly perfect".

"Lewis was unlucky with the safety car," he commented. "Jenson drove majestically, he didn't put a foot wrong. It was a bit tight on fuel, we struggled a bit. But it's a great way to start the season.

"We've proved we've got a quick car [and] there'll be a few bits for the next race."