Ferrari on Sunday confirmed its return to better form after the struggle and turmoil of 2014.
Although the gap to ultra-dominant Mercedes was in excess of half a minute, Sebastian Vettel began his new career in red with a podium finish.
It appeared to confirm the appearance that, having struggled notably in the power department last year, Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes with regards to its turbo V6 engine for 2015.
Ferrari customer Sauber, for instance, finished fifth in Albert Park, despite its courtroom dramas and Red Bull boss Christian Horner’s claim that the Swiss team was using ‘last year’s wings’ in Melbourne.
‘The difference is the engine,’ the disgruntled Horner insisted.
Another sign of Ferrari’s engine progress was the fact Mercedes customer Williams has apparently slipped behind the Italian giant.
‘Ferrari are quicker than us,’ admitted the Grove team’s technical boss Pat Symonds.
Former F1 driver Mika Salo said Ferrari’s leapfrogging of Williams was a surprise.
‘I did not expect that,’ he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 in Melbourne. ‘The Ferrari looks good.
‘Vettel was able to beat (Felipe) Massa and Kimi’s race pace was also faster than Massa,’ said Salo.
‘They’re a long way from Mercedes, though,’ the former Ferrari driver added.
On Sunday, however, Williams was missing the skilful services of Valtteri Bottas, who is now working with doctors to recover from a torn disc in his back.
Salo said: ‘It would have been nice to see what he was able to do.’
He also warned that the apparent pecking order in Australia, with Ferrari ahead of Williams, should not be overly trusted.
‘Australia is always a bit of a strange race while Malaysia is more of a ‘normal’ track,’ said the 48-year-old, who last raced with Toyota in 2002.