Millennium Post

Australian ‘finnish’ line

Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen driving a Lotus won the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Raikkonen held off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso of Spain and German Red Bull world champion Sebastian Vettel at the chequered flag.

 It was the 33-year-old Raikkonen’s 20th GP win and follows his triumph in the 2007 Australian race on his way to winning the world drivers’ title when driving for Ferrari.

Raikkonen coasted 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 Britain’s Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes fifth and Australian Mark Webber in a Red Bull sixth.

Raikkonen won the race despite only coming into the pits for two tyre changes compared to three employed by his rivals.

Eighteen cars finished the 58-lap race around the Albert Park street circuit with two retirements by Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, while Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado both encountered car trouble on the circuit.

The second race on the F1 circuit will be at Sepang in Malaysia next weekend.

No one in the Lotus camp was getting carried away enough to suggest a repeat of that feat was on the cards this year, not least the famously taciturn but hugely popular Finn.

‘It’s fantastic, the best start you can ever dream of,’ said team principal Eric Boullier.

‘We dreamed about it. When we were working on strategy we knew our car would possibly allow us to do only two pitstops. This morning again after the quali, we were just watching the car in parc ferme and saying ‘maybe it’s possible’.’

Raikkonen executed the plan in a Lotus which proved easy on the tyres, a critical advantage that allowed him to stay out on the track while his rivals were forced to make extra pit stops to change rubber.

‘There were a lot of question marks,’ said Raikkonen. ‘But I felt I had a good car and it turned out pretty good.

‘It’s always difficult in the first race not to stop too early or too late but we got it exactly right.

We had a good plan and it worked perfectly for us. ‘Hopefully we can have many more wins.’   
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