Formula One News » Raikkonen claims opening glory in Australia for Lotus Posted on 17/03/2013
Raikkonen, who lined-up in seventh place on the grid, made a good start in his Lotus and was fifth at the end of the first lap. He then opted for a two-stop strategy, while most of his rivals went for three, and the call paid dividends, with the Finn eventually coming home 12.4 seconds up on his closest rival.
It was the 20th win of his F1 career – equalling the tally of compatriot Mika Hakkinen – and it also extends his run of points’ scoring finishes to 18, stretching all the way back to the Bahrain GP in April last year.
“I’m happy for the team and for myself also,” said Raikkonen. “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. 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.”
Ferrari number one driver Fernando Alonso meanwhile took the runners-up spot, leapfrogging Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel and getting the undercut after his second stop. The Spaniard initially closed on Kimi in the final phase, before dropping back over the last 10 or so laps.
“We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best,” Alonso commented. “Along with the results from winter testing, it is a very encouraging sign that we managed to get the most out of a weekend that was full of unknown factors, both in qualifying and the race.
“I think the three stop strategy was the right one: with the degradation we had, it would have been impossible to manage on one less.”
Vettel completed the rostrum, the Red Bulls unable to replicate the kind of dominance they had shown in qualifying and in Friday practice. The German ended up 9.8 seconds further back.
“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,” he stated. “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 jumped us at a vulnerable time – but we can be happy with third.”
Behind, Felipe Massa was a very solid fourth in the second Ferrari, and early on he led the charge for the Scuderia. However a late second stop put him out of contention and cost the Brazilian a few places.
Lewis Hamilton began his Mercedes career with fifth, and also lead at one point until the Brackley-based team had to abandon plans to only two-stop due to excessive tyre wear.
“I’m happy with our result today and it’s much better than we expected for the first race of the season,” Hamilton noted. “The car felt really good out there; I had a strong first stint and was able to make the supersofts last longer than most of the others. We’d planned for two stops but converted to a three-stop strategy during the race. I don’t quite know where we lost the ground to the cars ahead so we’ll have a look at the race again now and figure it out.
“The important thing is that we have a car that we can really work with and the team have done a fantastic job to get us to this position. Thanks to everyone here and back at base for their support over my first race weekend with Mercedes.”
Mark Webber was only sixth in front of his home crowd, left ruing a bad start that dropped him from second place to seventh.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil shone on his return to the sport and lead for two periods. The German opted to run the super soft tyres at the end, and as a result that dropped him back as he was powerless to then hold off the likes of Hamilton and Webber. Paul di Resta also went well in the second Force India and claimed eighth, just 3.3 seconds off P7.
Jenson Button salvaged ninth, after a dismal weekend for McLaren. Sergio Perez was eleventh in the sister car, sandwiching Romain Grosjean, who took tenth and the final point.
Of the rest, Jean-Eric Vergne came home 12th in his Toro Rosso, followed by Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Williams man Valtteri Bottas and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi in positions 13 through to 15. Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde were the other finishers in 16th, 17th and 18th respectively.
In terms of retirements, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo all failed to finish, while Nico Hulkenberg didn’t even get to start due to a fuel system problem. Maldonado spun out and beached his Williams on lap 25, with Rosberg stopping a few laps later due to electronic issues. Ricciardo also had mechanical problems.
The 2013 FIA Formula 1 World Championship now heads to Sepang next, with the Malaysian Grand Prix taking place next weekend.