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Raikkonen Wins Australian Grand Prix For Lotus

posted 17 Mar 2013, 10:24 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 17 Mar 2013, 10:24 ]

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen takes second win since his return to Formula One while tyres harm Red Bull's race pace.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA (MARCH 17, 2013)(FOM) -  Kimi Raikkonen drove a strategic race to win the Australian Grand Prix for Lotus on Sunday (March 17) as the new Formula One season opened with a competitive race at Albert Park.

Finland's 2007 world champion rode to victory on a two-stop strategy and crossed the line 12.4 seconds clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium in third place for Red Bull after struggling with tyre wear throughout the race.

The 25-year-old Vettel got away cleanly from pole position but the variety of strategies forced on the teams by the tyres and the pace shown by Red Bull's rivals ensured this was never going to be a procession for the German.

Vettel led from pole position but his team mate Mark Webber made a poor start from second place and was passed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Alonso, and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton by the first corner.

Alonso and Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen fought for places from then on withAdrian Sutil's Force India joining them, and even leading on occasion as he stayed out while his rivals had to change tyres.

A few light showers contributed to an intriguing race but never threatened to spoil it as top drivers engaged in fierce battles around the circuit and the lead changed hands with surprising frequency.

Seven cars led the race at one stage or other but after Raikkonen hit the front for the second time on lap 43, it looked like only a mechanical problem would stop him from winning his 20th Grand Prix to match compatriot Mika Hakkinen's career tally.

"I had doubts because of course it is the first race, so you don't know how it will go, how the tyres will be. I didn't do any long runs in the winter really, but I knew I had a good car and I had a sort of feeling that it was going to be a good race but you have to get through the first laps and then go from there," said Raikkonen, the former McLaren and Ferrari driver who made his comeback last season after two years in rallying, on a podium of champions.

It was the first season-opening win by a team called Lotus since American Mario Andretti won the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix.

Alonso's Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa finished fourth ahead of 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton in his first race for Mercedes after leaving McLaren.

Red Bull's Mark Webber came up short in his 12th attempt to win his home race, finishing sixth.

Adrian Sutil, returning to the sport after a year out, suffered from graining tyres at the end and dropped from third place to seventh in the final 10 laps of the race, finishing just ahead of his Force India team mate Paul Di Resta.

Jenson Button, the winner of three of the last four races at Albert Park, was clearly off the pace but brought his McLaren home in ninth with Raikkonen's French team mate Romain Grosjean claiming the final point in 10th.

Alonso grumbled a bit afterwards about being held up by backmarkers as he attempted to chase Raikkonen down but was unable to disguise his delight at his pace.

"We had a very difficult start to the season two years ago and last year as well and this year is very different," said the twice champion, who missed out on the final qualifying session in Australia last year.

"We feel much more optimistic. The car is responding well, we are competitive so we have a very interesting season ahead of us."

Vettel described himself as happy with third place but admitted he had hoped for more after dominating qualifying, which had been completed on Sunday morning after torrential rain on Saturday evening.

"Clearly when you start from pole you want to win," said Vettel.

"I think we could see after a very good start, and a good first two or three laps, that the tyres were falling apart and we couldn't go as long as other people. So congratulations to Lotus and especially to Kimi, I think they did the best job today."

The race started with 21 cars after Nico Hulkenberg's Sauber suffered a fuel system failure and he was unable to make the grid, while Caterham's Charles Pic was allowed to take part by the stewards despite not having set a competitive qualifying time.

All made it to lap 25, when Pastor Maldonado beached his Williams on the trackside gravel and Nico Rosberg soon followed him out of the race when his Mercedes developed an electronics problem.

The day began with qualifying sessions two and three, postponed from Saturday (March 16) after bad weather. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finished on the front row with Lewis Hamilton third for his new team Mercedes.

Result from the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park on Sunday

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1:30:03.225

2. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari +00:12.451

3. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 00:22.346

4. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 00:33.577

5. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 00:45.561

6. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 00:46.800

7. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 01:05.068

8. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 01:08.449

9. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 01:21.630

10. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 01:22.759

11. Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 01:23.367

12. Jean-Eric Vergne (FranceToro Rosso - Ferrari 01:23.857

13. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1 lap

14. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1 lap

15. Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1 lap

16. Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault 2 laps

17. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 2 laps

18. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 2 laps

r. Daniel Ricciardo (AustraliaToro Rosso - Ferrari 19 laps

r. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 32 laps

r. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 34 laps

r. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 58 laps

(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)

Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen,1:29.274, lap 56.

Driver and constructor standings after the Formula One Australian Grand Prix atAlbert Park on Sunday

Drivers Points

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 25

2. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 18

3. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 15

4. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 12

5. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 10

6. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 8

7. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 6

8. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 4

9. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 2

10. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1

11. Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 0

12. Jean-Eric Vergne (FranceToro Rosso 0

13. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber 0

14. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 0

15. Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia 0

16. Charles Pic (France) Caterham 0

17. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia 0

18. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 0

Constructors Points

1. Ferrari 30

2. Lotus - Renault 26

3. RedBull - Renault 23

4. Mercedes 10

5. Force India - Mercedes 10

6. McLaren - Mercedes 2

7. Toro Rosso - Ferrari 0

8. Sauber - Ferrari 0

9. Williams - Renault 0

10. Marussia - Cosworth 0

11. Caterham - Renault 0