Nico Rosberg kicked off his new season with style with a fourth successive Formula 1 victory in a dramatic Australian Grand Prix which featured a nasty crash involving Fernando Alonso.
The Mercedes driver achieved his 15th career win, continuing his triumph form since the Mexican Grand Prix from 2015.
Rosberg finished eight seconds ahead of his team-mate and reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, while early race leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle with third for Ferrari.
The Australian Grand Prix, though, will be remembered for Alonso walking away from a lap 19 crash in which his McLaren Honda ran into the back of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas, slammed into the wall and then rolled violently through the gravel trap, forcing a red flag and a twenty minutes stoppage.
Following the elimination qualifying, which will revert back to the old format from the Bahrain Grand Prix after an urgent meeting of team bosses prior to the start, the race overall was a shot in the arm for the sport, despite the latest Mercedes one-two.
It started with Vettel making a brilliant start to come through between the front-row duo of Hamilton and Rosberg to take the lead into the first corner.
Behind the four-time champion, Rosberg edged Hamilton wide at Turn 1, and doing so allowed Raikkonen to nip through on the inside to claim second.
Hamilton was relegated to sixth position behind not only the Ferraris and Rosberg, but also Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa’s Williams.
It took four laps for Hamilton to overtake the Williams, and though soon up behind Verstappen he was unable to get close enough to pass, which allowed the leading trio to pull away by the first round of pit-stops.
The tyre choice was fascinating as Vettel and Raikkonen remained on the super-softs Pirelli, while Rosberg switched to softs, with an adrift Hamilton on mediums as Mercedes tried to get him to the end of the race on a one-stop strategy.
The race was then transformed with the crash involving Alonso and Gutierrez, with all cars returning to the pits and many taking advantage of the red flag period to change tyres.
Rosberg followed Hamilton onto mediums, but the Ferraris stuck with super-softs and Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rossos softs as they restarted behind the safety car in the order Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr, Hamilton and Massa.
Raikkonen soon retired from third, his Ferrari appearing to suffer a power-unit failure, leading to flames emerging from the engine cover as he stopped outside his garage.
Vettel could not pull away on his super-softs and pitted on lap 35 of 57, handing the lead to Rosberg.
Hamilton was promoted to third by Vettel and the Toro Rossos stopping for tyres, then moved down the inside of the soon-to-pit Ricciardo for second with 16 laps to go, leaving him ten seconds behind his team-mate.
Rosberg managed to hold his ground over the closing laps to clinch his 15th win in Formula 1.
A small mistake by Hamilton on lap 51 brought Vettel into play for second, but the champion kept his rival at bay to claim the runner-up spot, helped by the Ferrari locking up and running onto the grass at the penultimate corner with two laps to the flag.
Ricciardo claimed fourth, followed by Massa, with Romain Grosjean scoring points for Haas on its debut, the first new team to do so since Toyota with Mika Salo in 2002.
Grosjean benefited from being able to make his sole tyre change under the red flag, meaning he effectively completed the race without pitting.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, followed by Valtteri Bottas for Williams, both unable to pass Grosjean despite following the Haas for half the race.
Sainz and Verstappen caught this group after their pitstops, and had a minor clash near the end that resulted in a spin for Verstappen.
Neither Renault scored on the works team’s return as Jolyon Palmer could only managed P11 while Kevin Magnussen suffered a first-lap puncture but made it to the flag in P13.
For the second successive year in Melbourne Daniil Kvyat retired before the start, with the Red Bull grinding to a halt just behind the safety car as the grid formed.
So an exciting race and yet a familiar result on the podium. If Ferrari can challenge Mercedes on a consist basis, then we are set for a good season ahead.
Australian Grand Prix, 57 laps:
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h48m15.565s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 8.606s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 9.643s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 34.330s
5 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 58.979s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m12.081s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m14.199s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m15.153s
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m15.680s
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.833s
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m23.399s
12 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m25.606s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m31.699s
14 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1 Lap
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 1 Lap
– Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari Retirement
– Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Retirement
– Rio Haryanto Manor-Mercedes Retirement
– Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda Collision
– Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari Collision
– Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-TAG Heuer Not started
1 Nico Rosberg 25
2 Lewis Hamilton 18
3 Sebastian Vettel 15
4 Daniel Ricciardo 12
5 Felipe Massa 10
6 Romain Grosjean 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg 6
8 Valtteri Bottas 4
9 Carlos Sainz 2
10 Max Verstappen 1
1 Mercedes 43
2 Ferrari 15
3 Williams-Mercedes 14
4 Red Bull-TAG Heuer 12
5 Haas-Ferrari 8
6 Force India-Mercedes 6
7 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 3
8 Renault 0
9 McLaren-Honda 0
10 Sauber-Ferrari 0
11 Manor-Mercedes 0
Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit. April 1-3.