The early season pressure is already mounting in many teams. Even McLaren, who outpaced pre-season favourites Red Bull in Melbourne's opening round, is feeling the heat as they head to Malaysia.

Not least Lewis Hamilton, whose post-race demeanour after dropping from a pole position start-to-finish third behind Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, has again raised questions about his mental approach. Certainly Lewis' sulky podium and press conference performance was hardly the mark of a sportsman, but equally I sympathise with some of his disappointment.

Lewis was unlucky to lose second place to Vettel when the safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit-stop, but he must have been furious at himself for letting Button ahead at the start. Being beaten by your team-mate after being the fastest driver on the track in qualifying would hurt a lot. However Lewis cannot afford to be seen to be affected by such adversity. Three other former champions showed how it should be done.

Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull was outgunned both on raw horsepower and KERS power boost in qualifying, yet he charged from sixth on the grid to fourth by the end of the opening lap. He harried Schumacher for third before the senior German was sidelined with a gearbox failure on his Mercedes AMG Petronas, which was anyway struggling with fast-wearing tyres, and then closed in on Hamilton before the pit stop and safety car gave him second place.

Despite a quick Lotus car, as proved by returning rookie Romain Grosjean's third place in qualifying, Kimi Raikkonen's F1 return started a lowly 17th on the grid after he made a complete hash of the opening stage of qualifying.

Ring-rustiness

Kimi also proved his ring-rustiness in the race by making frantic radio calls after being confused by marshal's blue flag signals, but his natural race instincts came to the fore in a wonderful last lap melee.

The five cars at the tail of the top ten went into the last lap locked in battle. Kimi started the lap in tenth place, yet took the chequered flag in sixth. That's class.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso simply drove the wheels off the ungainly, ill-handling Ferrari F2012 to flatter the car with a fifth place finish.

One has to feel a little sorry for Felipe Massa, who faced with the Scuderia's worst car for a decade, simply failed to rise to the occasion in the same manner.

The Brazilian started 16th and eventually retired after colliding with Bruno Senna's Lotus while defending 14th. Such is Ferrari's desperation they are flying a brand-new chassis to Sepang for Massa. One wonders if it is to identify whether the car is to be blamed or the driver.

Looking down the order, Sauber outran Force India on race pace, although they in turn would have been beaten by a resurgent Williams, had Pastor Maldonado not crashed out of sixth place on the final lap. As bigger teams raise their development pace through the season, one worries that Williams just blew their best points-scoring chance of the year.

Malaysian home team Caterham, non-finishers in Melbourne, will hope to have put their reliability worries behind them for this weekend's race.

Fellow tail-enders Marussia got both their cars close enough to the chequered flag to be classified as finishers, while Narain Karthikeyan will face another battle to merely make the starting grid in the new and unsorted HRT.

For the third year running, a totally unproven car meant neither HRT driver could meet the rule that they have to lap within 107-per cent of the fastest car in the first leg of qualifying, in order to race.

Karthikeyan has done an absolutely brilliant job of putting together a package of sponsors to finance his season in Formula One.

The onus now is on HRT to match his performance, before those sponsors lose their patience.

(Steve Slater is an F1 race commentator on STAR SPORTS)

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper