|Who would have guessed this…Kimi ‘The Iceman’ Raikkonen has triumphed over the Red Bull Racing of triple Champion Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso at the season opener Australian Grand Prix.|
Kimi Raikkonen storms to season-opener victory
There’s no denying it from the results, the Lotus driver took the 58-lap race’s chequered flag approximately 12 seconds ahead of Alonso and a further 10 secs to Vettel, the pre-race favorite, at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, the traditional Formula 1 venue for the season opener.
For Raikkonen, it was his second victory in the Lotus F1 team outfit; his first came at last season’s Abu Dhabi GP’s Yas Marina circuit. The Iceman attains his 71st career podium finish, Alonso has scored his 87th career podium in second place and the reigning champion, who topped the morning’s qualifying for the race, secures his 51st career podium in third.
Following the victory, the Iceman leads the Drivers’ Championship, garnering a maximum 25 points, with Alonso and Vettel on 18 and 15 points respectively. In the Constructors’ rankings, Ferrari, thanks to Alonso’s second and Felipe Massa’s fourth, heads the preceedings with 30 points, then Lotus with 26 points and RBR with 23 points.
Lewis Hamilton, on his first race for the Mercedes AMG team, managed to finish fifth in front of the second RBR of Mark Webber. The two Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta grabbed precious points, thanks to a two-car finish, with Sutil seventh and di Resta eighth. McLaren man Button struggled for pace throughout the race and nearly lost out ninth position to the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean who’s tenth spot completed the top ten finishers at F1’s season opener.
Minutes into the race, teams were cautious about the weather as rain had been predicted. The grid lined up with the two Red Bulls leading the pack, and when the lights went out Vettel got away cleanly to lead the Ferraris of Massa and Alonso. Webber had a slow start off the grid and lost out at the start to Hamilton, Raikkonen and Rosberg in fourth, fifth and sixth. Behind Webber, Force India’s Paul Di Resta, Jenson Button and the second Force India of Adrian Sutil were inside the top ten. Raikkonen then had a side by side moment with Hamilton as they battled for fourth. In the early laps, the action was thick and fast as Massa got up very close to race leader Vettel by a margin of 1.7 seconds.
The pitstop window opened early as Button, Webber, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Guiterrez pitted for new shods on lap 4,5. At the front, Massa got even closer to the race leader as he trailed by only 0.7s, with Alonso who had Raikkonen’s Lotus 2s behind, another 0.6s away. Vettel pitted on lap 7 and rejoined the track in tenth, which meant the Ferraris took over 1 – 2 for a brief moment. When the Ferraris dived into the pitlane, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg assumed a temporary lead from Sutil, Sergio Perez, Vettel, Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen. Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen had re-engaged the race in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Sutil got a chance to lead to race when the two Mercedes pitted for new tyres. On lap 18, Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde had a puncture and was forced to dive into the pitlane.
Webber who started the first rounds of stops came in again on lap 19 and rejoined the track in seventeenth. Traditionally, the Australian does not fair too well at his home race. In front, Vettel had a 0.5s lead to Massa and a further 0.6s to Alonso, who had an advantage of 1.5s to the Lotus.
On lap 30, Hamilton was pursued by Alonso who’s determined to get past. Alonso would eventually take the lead when Hamilton went into the pits two laps later and looked to build the precious seconds from Vettel to keep the lead. Third-place Sutil, Massa and Raikkonen were the next drivers in the first group.
Everyone had elected to stop three times, however Raikkonen decided to pull it off in two. As the third stop window came about, Alonso who led from Sutil pitted on lap 39 and retook to the track in third. The Spaniard tried to quickly get his tyres heated up and chased Raikkonen and race leader Sutil. On lap 41. Massa easily swept past Hamilton and prior to that Vettel had got up to third when he overtook the Mercedes driver. Two laps later, Alonso had a poor lap run in third behind Sutil and Raikkonen which meant he did not have the advantage as expected. Raikkonen made his move on the very next lap to dispatch the slower Force India for the lead. Sutil had still not made his final stop, but the Force India needed new rubber and when the German came in from second on lap 46, this produced the finishing order that, at least for the leaders, would remain unchanged to the chequered flag.
On lap 47, Sutil finally stopped and retook the track fifth. Alonso wasn’t giving up the lead without a fight as he chased after the Lotus. The Ferrari driver’s determination was delayed somewhat by a couple of backmarkers as Raikkonen pushed on. On lap 51, Hamilton had a look at Sutil’s Force India for P5, and the Mercedes driver successfully got past a lap later. Moments later, Webber found a way past the Force India as well. So, Sutil had dropped to P7. Raikkonen was safe in the lead as the margin had increased to 8.3s on the penultimate lap.
At the line, Raikkonen topped Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Webber, Sutil, di Resta, Button and Grosjean for the first win of the season.”I’m happy for the team and for myself also. We’ve had a quick car all weekend and there were no issues with it either, so we could just focus on trying different things and getting the setup how we wanted,” the Finn beamed in post-race. “I had a good feeling that we would be ok with the tyres after practice and the team got the strategy perfect. I made a few places at the start and then had a good battle with Lewis (Hamilton) but after that it was quite simple; probably one of my easiest wins. 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.”
The Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit is up next in approximately a week’s time.
Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
1 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:30:03.225
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +12.4 secs
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR +22.3 secs
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari +33.5 secs
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +45.5 secs
6 Mark Webber RBR +46.8 secs
7 Adrian Sutil Force India +65.0 secs
8 Paul di Resta Force India +68.4 secs
9 Jenson Button McLaren +81.6 secs
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus +82.7 secs
11 Sergio Perez McLaren +83.3 secs
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +83.8 secs
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 Lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 Lap
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia +1 Lap
16 Charles Pic Caterham +2 Laps
17 Max Chilton Marussia +2 Laps
18 iedo van der Garde Caterham +2 Laps
Formula One World Championship Drivers’
1 Kimi Räikkönen 25
2 Fernando Alonso 18
3 Sebastian Vettel 15
4 Felipe Massa 12
5 Lewis Hamilton 10
6 Mark Webber 8
7 Adrian Sutil 6
8 Paul di Resta 4
9 Jenson Button 2
10 Romain Grosjean 1
Formula 1 World Championship Constructors’
1 Ferrari 30
2 Lotus 26
3 RBR 23
4 Mercedes 10
5 Force India 10
6 McLaren 2