Raikkonen the Wizard of Oz

Kimi Raikkonen has stormed to victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The race was led from pole by reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel who lost his lead during pit stops where Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso jumped the German.

Nico Hulkenberg who was looking promising in his Sauber was robbed of a chance to prove it when his team found an issue with his fuel pump and opted not to run the car on safety grounds. So, twenty-one drivers were left filing around Albert Park on the parade lap. The front row of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were left waiting for what seemed to be an age as the rest of the grid formed.

Lights out and Mark Webber lost yet another strong qualifying, dropping from second to seventh in the run up to turn 1 alone, while Massa jumped from fourth to second ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The entire grid, surprisingly, made it through the first lap completely unscathed although Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso did have to take drastic action to avoid separate incidents.

Vettel was storming away at the front but Massa was feeling feisty while fending off Alonso. Eventually Massa began to reel the German in, soon taking the gap to a second when the first round of pit stops arrived. Vettel pitted on Lap 7 with Massa a lap later and Alonso and Raikkonen both a further two laps afterwards.

Up front, both Mercedes’ – led by Hamilton were storming away while Vettel was clawing back up the grid after his pit stop, walking straight past Sergio Perez who was worryingly off the pace, as was Button – especially surprising as Melbourne is usually one of JB’s strongest races.

Lewis pitted and Rosberg followed suit allowing Adrian Sutil to take the lead of the Grand Prix in his return, albeit temporarily. It looked as if he would not even last a full lap in the lead as by now, Vettel leading the Ferrari’s had caught up with the Force India’s gearbox and were looking to get past without delay. However, Sutil wasn’t much in the mood for letting the traditionally faster cars past him and he raced on. It was for several laps he stayed in front of them, indeed even pulling away from Vettel before both German’s boxed on Lap 21. Alonso had boxed just one lap earlier and had the undercut, jumping the RB9 and the VJM07 while they battled themselves.

On the other end of the field, Maldonado was the first starter to drop out of the race when he got on the yellow track-lining paint and spun round to become beached in the gravel in turn 1. Trying to drive out saw his tires do nothing but spin uselessly and the crane arrived to clear the FW35 so Maldonado had no choice but to call it a day.

At the same time, Nico Rosberg who was battling with the leaders, pulled off the track at turn 4 with yet more technical woes for the team.  Light rain arrived which left Hamilton and Alonso battling for P3 in slippy conditions, the Spaniard eventually trumping his 2007 team-mate.

While Daniel Ricciardo was wheeled back into his garage to retire the car, Alonso was pushing his hardest to try to close the seven second gap that existed between himself and race leader Raikkonen. His efforts were in vain as Raikkonen continued to pull away, setting a new fastest lap on lap 56 of 58.

And so, Kimi Raikkonen was the first man to meet the checkered flag, followed by Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in an identical podium to Kimi’s other Lotus win in Abu Dhabi last year.

Vettel seemed slower than expected today while one can’t judge Red Bull’s pace as Webber got caught behind traffic and couldn’t show his hand. McLaren seem shockingly off the pace, playing no part in the race except as temporary challenges for the front-runners to pass. Lotus look mixed with Raikkonen on great form but a fairly inconspicuous Romain Grosjean while Ferrari seem to have the best pairing of the race.

  1. Kimi Raikkonen 
  2. Fernando Alonso
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Lewis Hamilton
  6. Mark Webber
  7. Adrian Sutil
  8. Paul di Resta
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Romain Grosjean
  11. Sergio Perez
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Esteban Gutierrez
  14. Valtteri Bottas
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Charles Pic
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Giedo van der Garde
  • Daniel Ricciardo
  • Nico Rosberg
  • Pastor Maldonado
  • Nico Hulkenberg (DNS)

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