Two-stopping Raikkonen takes victory in Melbourne
Kimi Raikkonen raced to his second victory for Lotus in the season opener in Australia on Sunday. Despite starting seventh on the grid, a strong opening few laps and superior tyre management brought the 2007 champion home over 12 seconds clear of second placed Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.
After taking a dominant pole in the delayed qualifying session, and leading the early stages of the race, reigning champion Sebastian Vettel came home in a distant third place in his Red Bull. Felipe Massa took fourth in the second Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton came home in fifth place on his debut for Mercedes.
The stage looked set for a Red Bull victory, with Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber locking out the front row, and Vettel racing away at the start, but it soon became apparent that the Red Bull’s race pace was not on par with it’s one-lap pace.
After being hounded by the Ferrari pair and Raikkonen’s Lotus, Vettel pulled out a small lead after getting the jump on his rivals in the first round of stops, but it wasn’t long before the German driver was under pressure again, and struggling to keep up with Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who had taken a longer opening stint on the harder compound tyre.
During the second round of stops Alonso jumped both team-mate Massa, and Vettel for the lead, but it was Kimi Raikkonen who came out on top, making one stop fewer than his rivals. Alonso was expected to put pressure on the Finn, as his tyres began to feel the effects of a much longer final stint, but it was Raikkonen who had the pace at the end, controlling the gap to the Spaniard, and even setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.
Further down the field, Mark Webber took sixth place after a horrible day at his home circuit, in which technical troubles left him floundering at the start, and led to an absence of KERS for the early stages. Webber was followed up by the two Force India’s, including an impressive Sutil on his return after a season out – the German was on for a stronger result, but a long final stint on the inferior soft tyre saw him drop off the pace rapidly in the closing stages.
It was a tough day for McLaren; Jenson Button came home in 9th place – just one ahead of his starting position – and Sergio Perez finished outside of the points, despite a positive performance on his debut. The final points position went to Romain Grosjean, who couldn’t find the same pace shown by his team-mate.
Following all the talk of Red Bull dominance, the strength of both the Lotus and Ferrari shows encouraging signs that 2013 will be another cracker, and with Mercedes showing signs of pace, predicting the winner of round two in Malaysia next weekend will be near impossible.
Race results top 10
1. Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus 1:30:03.225
2. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari +00:12.451
3. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull +00:22.346
4. Felipe Massa – Ferrari +00:33.577
5. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +00:45.561
6. Mark Webber – Red Bull +00:46.800
7. Adrian Sutil – Force India +01:64.068
8. Paul di Resta – Force India +01:67.449
9. Jenson Button – McLaren +01:80.630
10. Romain Grosjean – Lotus +01:81.759
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.