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Hamilton victorious in action-packed Albert Park race 16 Mar 2008

Race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Third placed Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW30 takes the Chequered Flag.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 overtakes Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren MP4/23 before going off.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Grid girls.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 crashed out of the race.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Lewis Hamilton’s win for McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix almost went unnoticed in Albert Park this afternoon - and that tells you just what sort of race it was. The 23 year-old Briton dominated an event characterised by safety car interventions following a series of dramatic incidents that all happened behind him.

Hamilton would build a lead, lose it behind the safety car, build it again, lose it again. You get the picture. But if he was impressive here a year ago, he was even better on Sunday, never losing his composure as he took the lead of the world championship with almost insouciant ease.

If it was a great day for McLaren, it was a disaster for Ferrari. Felipe Massa spun on the first lap and was then involved in an incident with Red Bull’s David Coulthard before retiring, and Kimi Raikkonen, having benefited from the second safety car intervention, slid off the road trying to pass McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and undid all that work. Then his Ferrari let him down when he was running seventh with three laps to go.

Indeed, McLaren should have had a one-two, but a third safety car intervention following a heavy accident for Toyota’s Timo Glock badly hurt Kovalainen’s chances as he had to pit when everyone had closed up. He dropped way back, was passed by Raikkonen, repassed him, then found himself overtaken by Renault’s Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard overtook both of his rivals in a wonderful move.

After fighting back, Kovalainen repassed the Renault with two laps to go, only to have his car falter momentarily as they crossed the line for the 57th time. As he wiped oil off his visor he accidentally triggered the pit-lane speed limiter and a relieved Alonso pounced to head his former team mate home in fourth place.

Ahead of them, Nick Heidfeld brought his BMW Sauber home an excellent second, chased by Nico Rosberg, whose Toyota-engined Williams was the fastest car on the track in the closing stages. It was the young German’s first podium.

The race began with drama as an incident in the first corner involved Honda’s Jenson Button, Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella, Red Bull’s Mark Webber, Super Aguri’s Anthony Davidson and Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel, and led directly or indirectly to their retirements.

Jarno Trulli looked set for good points until his Toyota let him down, and Nelson Piquet’s debut for Renault was little short of disastrous as he trailed at the back and failed to make it home.

Sebastien Bourdais and his Toro Rosso crew made a great call on strategy and were running fourth, ahead of Alonso and Kovalainen with three laps to go, but were stymied by engine failure. Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato similarly failed to make the finish.

“The team did a fantastic job as always, and the car was phenomenal, a complete dream to drive compared to last year,” a delighted Hamilton said. “They pulled me in early on both stops and that kept us out of trouble. Physically the race was a breeze, and great preparation for Malaysia, so bring it on, I’m really looking forward to it.”