Red Bull, however, chose to qualify on the red-walled SuperSoft rather than the UltraSoft, potentially giving them a longer opening stint range. But, as it transpired, a three-place grid penalty for Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen spending his opening stint behind Magnussen, masked the team's potential.
Lewis appeared to be in complete control at the head of the field. He gradually opened out a 3s advantage over Räikkönen by lap 15, with Vettel, a further 3s behind.
From 3.38s behind Lewis, Räikkönen pitted after 18 of the race's 58 laps, the Ferrari going onto the Soft tyre, obliging the team to respond by bringing Lewis in on the next lap to defend any potential undercut. The stop went without drama and at the end of lap 20 Lewis had a 4.8s advantage over Räikkönen and ran second, 13s behind Vettel, who had yet to pit.
The time loss while making a pit stop in Melbourne is around 23s and there was no sign of any dramatic pace increase from Vettel's leading Ferrari. Lewis, in fact, was actually able to reduce his deficit to 11.3s despite being on the harder tyre. He appeared to be under no threat - but that was counting without a double drama for Haas, which eliminated both cars when the team was set for its best ever result.
When Magnussen pitted from fourth on lap 22 there was a problem with the left-rear wheel alignment and a subsequent cross-threaded nut brought the Dane to a halt with a loose wheel on his 'out' lap. The Haas pit wall looked on in sheer disbelief when, two laps later, a similar problem with the left front also eliminated Grosjean.