Kimi Raikkonen upstaged the established order to claim a resounding victory for Lotus in the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne yesterday.
The taciturn Finn roared off from seventh on the starting grid to take a forward position and employed only a two-stop strategy to take the race from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull world champion Sebastian Vettel. For Raikkonen, 33, who won the 2007 world championship with Ferrari before taking two years out to drive in rallying, it was his 20th GP triumph. Raikkonen had the luxury of an easy run in the closing laps to the finish line and beat Alonso by 12.4secs with Vettel a further 9.8secs away in third.
Alonso’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil was fourth with Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) fifth and Australian Mark Webber (Red Bull)
sixth. Raikkonen won the race despite coming into the pits for two tyre changes compared to three employed by his rivals. It was a great day for legendary Lotus, who took over Renault last year when Raikkonen won the Abu Dhabi GP.
“I believe my car is quite good, it’s been feeling good all weekend and when we did the longer run it felt good,” Raikkonen said. He added: “We knew that if the front tyres were lasting we would be fine. I was confident, but you have to get through the start and the first lap and it’s the first race so you never know what’s going to happen.”
Troubled Red Bull
The world champion Red Bull team had a troubled start to the new Formula One season with Vettel failing to convert his pole position into a victory.
The young German, tilting at his fourth consecutive world driver’s title this year, dropped back after leading the field for the first few laps, blaming tyre degradation before finishing third behind Lotus winner Kimi Raikkonen.
His Australian teammate Mark Webber’s dream of winning his home GP at the 12th attempt also dissolved amid issues with his Red Bull car as he battled home in sixth place. It was not the outcome the Formula One world was expecting after both Red Bull cars qualified on the front row of the grid with the fastest times.
Vettel got away smartly and avoided any traffic congestion at the notorious first right-hander out of the home straight, while Webber had a sluggish start and was beaten to the first bend by six cars. “I think you’re always a little disappointed when you start first and don’t finish first, but overall it was a good weekend for us,” Vettel said.
“We had a good day today with a pole and a podium — but in the race we were a little too aggressive with the tyres and lost the front and the rears, while others did a little better. There are always areas where you can improve, but the result we got today is fair. We didn’t see Kimi on the track, he was too quick and Fernando (Alonso) jumped us at a vulnerable time — but we can be happy with third,” he added.
Webber said he had problems at the start which cost him a forward position. “We had a few issues on the grid, getting the telemetry from the car to the pits, which wasn’t ideal in terms of the guys knowing where to set everything up for the start,” said Webber.