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MOTORSPORT: Raikkonen off to flying start
6:30pm Sunday 17th March 2013 in Sport
Kimi Raikkonen proved he and Lotus have what it takes this year to become Formula 1 world champions after storming to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The Enstone-based team suggested during winter testing they had taken a step forward from last season.
And they underlined that around Melbourne’s Albert Park as Raikkonen took the chequered flag for the 20th time in his F1 career.
The 2007 world champion was joined by two-times title winner Fernando Alonso and reigning three-times king Sebastian Vettel on the podium.
On his debut for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth, with Force India’s Paul Di Resta eighth and Jenson Button down in ninth in a struggling McLaren.
Raikkonen had started from seventh on the grid after the second and third qualifying sessions had been held over until yesterday due to adverse weather on Saturday.
But he made his team’s two-stop strategy work to perfection.
“I was a bit disappointed from qualifying,” said Raikkonen. “I took it a bit too easy and made a small mistake at one point.
“It wasn’t the ideal starting place, but then it was still ten better than last year.
“The car had been feeling good all weekend, and we knew if we could make the front tyres last we would be fine.
“There were still a lot of question marks going into the race, but it turned out to be good, and hopefully we can have many more of these kind of races.”
And he added: “You can’t start the season much better than winning the first race and of course we hope we can be fighting at the front of the championship, but there’s a long way to go still and we need to keep pushing hard all the way.”
Team principal Eric Boullier said: “It’s a fantastic feeling to open the season in this way. “Kimi drove impeccably all weekend and gave the team his all.
“This win is a further testament to all the hard work which goes on at Enstone and we owe tremendous thanks to each and every employee.”
Raikkonen’s two-stop strategy contrasted to the five drivers who finished behind him, with Felipe Massa fourth, ahead of Hamilton, after they all had three stops.
As for Vettel’s teammate, Mark Webber, his home race in Australia was again agonising – and it was his own poor start that proved his undoing, as has so often been the case in the past.
Webber fell down the field once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start, and by the end of lap one was down in seventh, recovering one place by the conclusion.
Throughout the 58 laps the lead changed hands many times as the pit stops unfolded, with even Force India’s Adrian Sutil front-running for a number of laps after starting out on two runs of medium tyres.
However, on his return to F1 after a year out, his forced run to the finish on the supersoft tyres saw him drop out of the reckoning, ending up in seventh place.
Raikkonen’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, was tenth, just ahead of Sergio Perez on his maiden outing for McLaren.
Grosjean said: “Something felt wrong with my car, so I have to sit down with the team and analyse where the issue came from.”
Result: 1 K Raikkonen (Lotus) 1hr 30mins 3.225secs; 2 F Alonso (Ferrari) +12.451secs; 3 S Vettel (Red Bull) +22.346; 4 F Massa (Ferrari) +33.577; 5 L Hamilton (Mercedes) +45.561; 6 M Webber (Red Bull) +46.800; 7 A Sutil (Force India) +2mins 4.068secs; 8 P Di Resta (Force India) +2.07.449; 9 J Button (Mc-Laren) +2:20.630; 10 R Grosjean (Lotus) +2:21.759. Other local results: 14 V Bottas (Williams) lapped; 15 J Bianchi (Marussia) lapped; 16 C Pic (Caterham) lapped; 17 M Chilton (Marussia) lapped; 18 G van der Garde (Caterham) lapped; 21 P Maldonado (Williams) retired, 24 laps.
Drivers’ standings: 1 K Raikkonen 25pts; 2 F Alonso 18; 3 S Vettel 15; 4 F Massa 12; 5 L Hamilton 10; 6 M Webber 8; 7 A Sutil 6; 8 P Di Resta 4; 9 J Button 2; 10 R Grosjean 1.
Constructors’ standings: 1 Ferrari 30pts; 2 Lotus 26; 3 Red Bull 23; 4 Mercedes 10; 5 Force India 10; 6 McLaren 2.
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