Kimi Raikkonen has got his 2013 season off to a perfect start after winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Lotus driver perfected a two stop strategy which saw him finish over ten seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso in second place. The Ferrari driver pitted three times, as did pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel who completed the podium in third.
Off the start, Mark Webber was swallowed up into the midfield following a poor getaway, and Lewis Hamilton lost out to both Ferrari drivers. Felipe Massa was Vettel’s closest challenger for the lead until the first round of stops, and the Red Bull driver failed to close the gap to Adrian Sutil who had assumed the lead of the race on the harder tire. When he did stop, Raikkonen and Hamilton were released, but the Mercedes was clearly struggling on its tires. Alonso managed to edge out his teammate and Vettel at the front, and he quickly set about opening up the gap to Raikkonen who was trying to make the two stop strategy work.
Alonso pitted for a final time to hand Sutil the lead, but the Force India was quickly passed by Raikkonen, but the gap to the Ferrari was diminishing. The Finn began to ease off in order to save his tires, but Alonso could not capitalize on this as he struggled to pass Sutil for P2. When the Ferrari did get past, the gap was over seven seconds, which turned out to be too great for Alonso. For good measure, Raikkonen posted the fastest lap time with three laps to go showing just how good the Lotus E21 is on its tires.
Sutil’s race was ruined when he moved onto the supersoft tire with twelve laps to go, and he eventually lost out to Massa, Hamilton and Webber. di Resta finished just behind his teammate in P8 ahead of a struggling Jenson Button. Romain Grosjean took the final point for Lotus in P10.
The opening race of the season saw four teams vying for the race win, and with Pirelli tires proving to be the deciding factor, Raikkonen will be pleased with how he managed the race from the front and got the undercut on his rivals. Ferrari have clearly banished their 2012 car troubles, whilst Red Bull will be questioning just what changed between qualifying and the race. For Mercedes, the race moved away from them as they struggled to manage their tires, whilst McLaren will know they have a lot of work to do after scoring just two points today.
2013 Australian Grand Prix – Classification
1 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault Winner
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +12.4 secs
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault +22.3 secs
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari +33.5 secs
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +45.5 secs
6 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault +46.8 secs
7 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes +65.0 secs
8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes +68.4 secs
9 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +81.6 secs
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault +82.7 secs
11 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes +83.3 secs
12 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari +83.8 secs
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari +1 Lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault +1 Lap
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap
16 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault +2 Laps
17 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth +2 Laps
18 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault +2 Laps
Ret Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari
Ret Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Ret Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
DNS Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari
You can follow Luke on Twitter @LukeSmithF1