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Australian GP: Raikkonen and Lotus convincingly win the first race of the season at Albert Park

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: Raikkonen and Lotus convincingly win the first race of the season at Albert ParkKimi Raikkonen won the first race of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne. The Finn won the race thanks to a two-stop strategy, while his rivals Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who were on a three-stop schedule, took second and third place respectively.

The Iceman, who secured his 20th Grand Prix win today, was this time a bit more talkative and said after the race, ‘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 set-up how we wanted.”

According to the Finn, it was his easiest win in his career, “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 relieved to be on the right pace - Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari relieved to be on the right pace – Photo: Ferrari

Not a bad start of the season either for Ferrari, the Scuderia were on the right pace all weekend and were able to follow leader Vettel during the first stage of the race, and when Vettel pitted for the first time, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were briefly leading the race.

“We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best. 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,” a relieved Alonso stated after the podium ceremony.

After the start of the race, Vettel was leading, but Mark Webber in the second Red Bull had another of his disastrous starts, he was seventh after completing the first lap at Albert Park. Vettel, who was a bit disappointed not to win the race after he had claimed pole position in the morning, commented, “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.”

Fifth place for Hamilton at Albert Park - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Fifth place for Hamilton at Albert Park – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes, while Nico Rosberg retired due to electrical problems. Hamilton started from third on the grid, and was pleased with today’s result. “It’s much better than we expected for the first race of the season. The car felt really good out there; I had a strong first stint and was able to make the super softs last longer than most of the others. We’d planned for two stops but converted to a three-stop strategy during the race,” he explained.

And he added, “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.”

Star of the race was without a doubt returnee Adrian Sutil, who after 20 laps led the race for Force India, thanks to an alternative pit stop schedule. On his medium tyres the German could easily keep the Red Bulls and Ferraris behind him, but later on the super soft tyres slid down the order, and finished in seventh spot.

“What a fantastic race and a great feeling,” Sutil said, adding, “The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early.

A perfect comeback for Sutil who further commented, “My final stint on the super softs was much more difficult because the tyres started graining and I lost a few places. I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tyres came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place.”

Bad day for McLaren, Perez making a pit stop - Photo: McLaren

Bad day for McLaren, Perez making a pit stop – Photo: McLaren

Ferrari were of course relieved to be on the pace, while McLaren found out they were slow, very slow, and Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were hardly able to defend their initial positions in the top ten. However, Button was satisfied with the result. “I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved here in Melbourne today. It was a tricky race, and our car isn’t yet quick enough, so I think the team did a great job to achieve even as much as we did,” said the 2009 World Champion.

It was also a difficult race for Perez, who made his debut for McLaren and finished in 11th place. “I got a good start, which is always a bonus, but, after that, even though the team did a great job with the strategy, we just didn’t have enough pace to make significant further progress,” the Mexican said. And he duly added, “Our engineers are aware that our car isn’t yet as quick as it needs to be, but I know I’m now part of the best team in Formula One so I’m certain they’ll improve it fast.”

Mixed results for Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo had to retire with an exhaust-related problem, but Jean-Eric Vergne finished the race in 12th spot, just a few tenths of a second behind Perez.

“It was a hot start, I was pushed to the outside and I ended up going through a gravel trap at one point,” Vergne said, and he added, ”After that, the first stint on the Option [super softs] was only average, but the last two sections on the Prime tyre were very good and competitive and I was even in the points for a couple of corners right at the end.” But he thinks the STR8 is basically a good car, “Overall, I think the weekend showed we have a good car with which we ought to be able to go hunting for points in every race.”

Esteban Gutierrez made his F1 debut - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez made his F1 debut – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Also not a good day for Nico Hulkenberg, who could not start the race due to a fuel system problem, he was already on his way to the airport when the race started. For rookie Esteban Gutierrez, however, it was a good Formula One debut, as he finished in 13th place.

“My main goal was to finish the race, and to achieve that is really enjoyable,” said the young Mexican. “I want to thank the whole team, because yesterday in qualifying we had a good chance and today we were able to recover some of what we lost yesterday. We have a good base and in the future we will try and push forward.”

Further down the order in 14th place was Valtteri Bottas, the only Williams driver to finish the race, as Pastor Maldonado made a mistake at Turn 1 and ended up in the gravel trap after completing only 24 laps in the ‘undriveable’ Williams.

Bottas, however, was pleased with his Formula One debut. “We got the maximum performance we could from the car today and although the pace isn’t there yet, there are still some positives to take away. The next race is only a week away, so we will work very hard to prepare as best we can and try to score our first points of the season,” the Finn commented.

The last four places were for Marussia and Caterham, Jules Bianchi in the Marussia was 15th, again showing he’s much faster than his team colleague Max Chilton, who was 17th, one lap behind Bianchi.

“I am very happy with my race today and really can’t imagine a better start to my first season of Formula One,” Bianchi said. “Generally everything went very smoothly in the race and we worked our way through the tyre management issues as well as we could in order to maximise the possibilities.”

Charles Pic was 16th for Caterham, and told his story. “We started on the super softs and our pace was ok for the first stint but the tyres dropped off very quickly.” And he further explained, “In contrast, when we went onto the mediums the degradation levels were very good so we were able to push the second stint much longer than we’d planned and that gave us a chance to fight. Unfortunately towards the end of the race we had a KERS failure which obviously cut our outright pace and prevented us from taking full advantage of the good tyre wear we saw on the primes.”

Also Giedo van der Garde was pleased with his Grand Prix debut, “For me that was a reasonable start to my Formula One career. It was really important to finish my first race and that’s exactly what I did so I’m pretty happy with how it ended up.”

For round two of the 2013 championship, the Formula One circus will move to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit next weekend.

All Formula One results can be found in the menu of the F1 2013 Season > Australian GP, together with links to the practice, qualifying and race reports.

Australian GP Results (Opens in new window)


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