Ferrari cruised to a one-two finish in Melbourne at the weekend. The race demonstrated Ferrari's early-season superiority and clearly showed up the weaknesses of the other title contenders.

Ferrari cruised to a one-two finish in Melbourne at the weekend. The Australian Grand Prix demonstrated Ferrari's early-season superiority and showed up the weaknesses of the other title contenders.

Michael Schumacher’s lead in the final laps was so great that he was able to slow right down to “conserve” his car and still have a 13,6 second lead over team mate, and runner-up, Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian finished no less than 34,6 seconds ahead of third-placed Fernando Alonso.

Speaking after the race, Schumacher said: “It was tough because in the first half of the race before Rubens faced some problems it was a close fight. I couldn't do any mistakes. It was very exciting."

Barrichello said he ran into brake problems after his first pit stop and had to ease off to avoid an accident.

While few seemed up to the Ferrari’s performance, Renault’s Alonso was the only driver to stay in touch with the Ferraris throughout the race to finish in the third spot.

The Spaniard said that his team would really be on the pace by the time the European races swung round.

"We have a few steps on the engine for the European races, and I think we can be competitive," Alonso said.

"For us, the first three races of the season are just for getting some points on the board."

Renault engineering director Pat Symonds said it was a "bit of a shock to come to the first race and see Ferrari dominate like that".

Symonds said: "The car's level of competitiveness was pretty much what we had expected. It is hard to be disappointed with getting a podium at the first race, but hats off to Ferrari: we all have a lot of work to do to catch them. But we will."

About the R24 Symonds said: "I am particularly pleased with the engine: it has more torque, more power and has been 100 per cent reliable over the three days."

Alonso did have one hitch though – Williams-BMW driver, Juan-Pablo Montoya.

"I had a little problem with Montoya. He squeezed me a bit . He ran wide on the dirty part of the track and he didn't brake enough.

"After that, I was too slow to race with the Ferraris and a little quicker than Jenson and Ralf, so it was an easy race."

Montoya, who was expected to challenge the Ferraris, lost ground at the start when he ran off the track while trying to hold off Alonso.

That dropped the Colombian to seventh place, and he spent the rest of the race battling to pass slower cars.

Montoya finished the race in fifth place, behind Williams-BMW team mate, Ralf Schumacher.

Jenson Button finished sixth in the BAR, ahead of Renault's Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard in his McLaren.

Button, who had qualified in fourth position, spent the race going backwards as his car proved unable to match its pace set in qualifying.

And while Mark Webber had looked on course for an eighth place in his home race in the Jaguar, he was forced retired on lap 29 with a gearbox problem.

That bumped Coulthard into the final points scoring position, ending a dismal weekend for team McLaren.

Fellow driver Coulthard, who finished eighth, said: "Given our performance in the event, it's what we deserve. We weren't quick enough in any of the sessions.

“We have the pace at times, but it's not there on the first lap and we're not consistent. We've had our first reality check on our performance.”

His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire on lap nine with an engine failure and made no secret of the fact that he was not impressed either.

"We were not expecting 10th place on the grid. It's very disappointing,” he said. "We shouldn't be in that position, we should be fighting for first place. Nobody's happy."

McLaren team boss, Ron Dennis, said: "To say it was a difficult weekend for the team would be somewhat of an understatement.”

F1 rookies, Christien Klien (Jaguar) and Giorgio Pantano (Jordan), managed to secure respectable positions for their teams finishing in 11th and 14th place respectively.

Pos Driver Time Team
1 M. Schumacher 1hr 24:15.757 Ferrari
2 R. Barrichello + 13.605 Ferrari
3 F. Alonso + 34.612 Renault
4 R. Schumacher + 1:00.444 Williams
5 J-P. Montoya + 1:08.590 Williams
6 J. Button + 1:10.520 BAR
7 J. Trulli + 1 laps Renault
8 D. Coulthard + 1 laps McLaren
9 T. Sato + 1 laps BAR
10 G. Fisichella + 1 laps Sauber
11 C. Klien + 2 laps Jaguar
12 C. da Matta + 2 laps Toyota
13 O. Panis + 2 laps Toyota
14 G. Pantano + 3 laps Jordan
  F. Massa lap 44 Sauber
  N. Heidfeld lap 43 Jordan
  G. Bruni lap 34 Minardi
  M. Webber lap 29 Jaguar
  Z. Baumgartner lap 13 Minardi
  K. Raikkonen lap 9 McLaren