Rivals daunted by dominant Vettel pole (GMM) Sebastian Vettel on Saturday kicked off his title defense with a dominant run to pole position in Melbourne.
"What did he do, a (1 minute) 23-5? Ah, yes," McLaren's Jenson Button, fourth on the grid and 1.2 seconds slower, answered when asked if the German's performance is daunting given that his KERS unit failed during Q3.
Even more daunted, however, is Mark Webber, whose deficit to his Red Bull teammate is almost nine tenths.
"I'm a bit mystified with the gap to Seb, to be honest," said the disappointed Australian.
Feeling happier is Lewis Hamilton, who put the much-improved McLaren on the front row next to Vettel despite also suffering a KERS failure.
"I don't think he would have got Sebastian but it definitely would have been closer," his boss Martin Whitmarsh told the BBC.
Underperforming on Saturday was Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso just fifth on the grid after a promising winter.
Alonso said: "We expected to be fifth but we are not so happy about the distance to pole.
"It's true it (the gap) is very big, but I expect that this was not our normal pace and we will get better."
At the back, the Virgins will be relieved to have simply qualified, which is more than can be said for the HRTs driven by Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan.
"They (Hispania) are a waste of talent and petrol as far as I'm concerned," said British commentator Martin Brundle. "They should not be allowed on the track."