Nico Rosberg took the lead at the first corner from third on the grid before racing away from the field to win in Australia. He secured his fourth Formula One race win by a comfortable margin.
"Brilliant start! What a car you've given me! Unbelievable," Rosberg told his team via the in-car radio on his victory lap.
Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo, in his first race for Red Bull, could not match the pace of the Mercedes out front. Still, given Red Bull's problematic pre-season campaign, the team was most likely satisfied with a second-placed finish.
Fuel flow heartbreak
However, the Australian was later excluded from the standings after FIA officials said his Red Bull had "consistently" exceeded the fuel flow limit of 100 kilos per hour that is a new part of the 2014 regulations. The rule is designed to keep top speeds in check with the introduction of new turbocharged engines. Red Bull immediately indicated its intention to appeal the ruling.
"Inconsistencies with the FIA fuel flow meter have been prevalent all weekend up and down the pitlane," Red Bull said in a statement. "The team and [engine supplier] Renault are confident the fuel supplied to the engine is in full compliance with the regulations."
Ricciardo's exclusion promoted McLaren's youngster Kevin Magnussen to second position; the Dane had hounded Ricciardo throughout the latter stages but seemed unable to find the pace to pass on the straights. Magnussen finished third in his very first Grand Prix, the first driver to do so since Lewis Hamilton on his 2007 debut for McLaren.
Vettel bows out early
Hamilton's race on Sunday from pole position with Mercedes was less satisfactory. He and world champion Sebastian Vettel, who started down in 12th, both ran slowly in the early going, communicating with their teams via the radio about engine difficulties. After around five laps backpedalling, both world champions parked in the pits and retired.
"I don't know the exact problem," Vettel said on Sky Germany shortly after bowing out of the race. "I think we had some kind of problem with the motor. It did not seem to be running cleanly, perhaps not on all cylinders."
Jenson Button was the best-placed world champion at Melbourne, following his teammate Magnussen home in fourth position; he was later promoted to third. Fifth on the afternoon, Fernando Alonso was promoted to fourth with Ricciardo's exclusion.
Bottas charges back
Valtteri Bottas had a hectic day in his Williams. After starting 15th, he charged up the order early, only to hit the wall and dislodge a rear wheel. His car was otherwise undamaged, however, and the Finn was able to limp back to the pits. He then blasted back through the field cross the line in sixth - helped in part by the safety car phase his own incident had caused, which prevented him from losing too much ground to the pack.
Force India's Nico Hülkenberg, who ran much of the race as high as fourth, slid down the order late on, losing out to Bottas in the late battle for sixth.
Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and the Toro Rosso pair of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat secured the final points-paying positions. Nineteen-year-old Kvyat, like Magnussen up on the podium, was in his very first F1 race.
Hülkenberg's Force India teammate Sergio Perez, nearly a lap down from winner Rosberg by the end, was promoted to 10th once Ricciardo was disqualified.
The season-opening race was something of a step into the unknown, with major changes to Formula One's technical and sporting regulations for 2014. Despite the early flurry of retirements, teams seemed to cope with their new engines and a tight fuel limit without too many problems. After Ricciardo's provisional expulsion, 13 of the 22 starters were classified as finishing the race.