Race - Raikkonen and Lotus triumph in Australia 17 Mar 2013
Kimi Raikkonen put himself on top Down Under with an emphatic and unexpected victory for Lotus in the 2013 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
After qualifying everybody had expected Red Bull domination, but that went wrong right from the start. Sebastian Vettel led confidently, but Mark Webber immediately fell from second to seventh as the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso exploded into second and third places ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg which sandwiched Raikkonens Lotus.
The Finn soon disposed of the silver arrows, and began his chase of the three breakaway leaders.
Vettel was the first of them to change his supersoft Pirelli tyres, on lap seven, followed by leader Massa on lap eight, then leader Alonso and Raikkonen on nine. That left Hamilton in the lead and he stayed there until lap 12, whereupon Rosberg led briefly before Adrian Sutil, who had started 11th for Force India on medium compound tyres, seized the initiative. For the second race in succession, a Force India led.
The German, making his first start since 2011, stayed there ahead of Vettel, Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen until pitting on the 21st lap. Vettel did likewise, and Massa a lap later. But crucially, Alonso had stopped on the 20th, and was thus able to leapfrog the group ahead of him - Sutil, Vettel and Massa - when they made their stops. He thus took over second place when Hamilton stopped again on the 31st lap. By then Rosberg had dropped out with electrical problems. Massa, meanwhile, left it too long and dropped from first to seventh when he pitted on the 23rd lap.
Now Raikkonen led, and it soon emerged that Lotus had chosen a two-stop strategy - as opposed to the popular three-stop strategy of the other leading contenders - and were able to make it work. He clung on up front until the 34th lap, which then put Alonso and Vettel into the top two places, and soon the Ferrari was leaving the Red Bull behind. Vettel found his car good for a couple of laps on new rubber, but after that it began to destroy it. Red Bull might have owned qualifying, but Lotus and Ferrari had the upper hand in the race.
Soon after Vettel stopped for the third time on lap 37, and Alonso on 39, Raikkonen caught and passed Sutil on the 43rd, and that was the crucial point for him. In clear air he could now control everything. Even when Alonso quickly moved in on the Force India, it became evident that the Lotus was a better package with which Raikkonen could dictate the race.
Behind them, Vettel had nothing left and had to settle for third, as Massa climbed back to fourth. He was a little disgruntled about his earlier pit stop, but fourth was a solid result on a circuit that doesnt favour his style which relies heavily on traction.
Hamilton looked racy early on as his Mercedes went 12 laps on the supersofts, but though his lap times were competitive at times, the F1 W04 lacked the sheer pace to run with the big boys. He was able to reel in Sutil, however, as the German struggled for the final 12 laps on the supersofts.
After his disaster, an unhappy Webber fought back to sixth, setting some fastest laps on the way, and he also passed Sutil in the closing stages. Sutil clung on for seventh after a great comeback, as team mate Paul di Resta looked threatening until a moment on the final tour dropped him back.
McLaren had a deeply troubled outing, and Jenson Button was the first to swap from supersofts to mediums as early as the fourth lap. He ran in the lower midfield, fighting with Lotuss Romain Grosjean for much of the race after the Frenchman made a terrible start. They crossed the line within 1.1s of each other, as the Lotus driver battled to hold off Buttons team mate Sergio Perez. Toro Rossos Jean-Eric Vergne, who set the second fastest lap after a late tyre stop, was also in this fight after a feisty race, but dropped down to 12th after a move on Grosjean failed to come off.
Esteban Gutierrez was Saubers sole runner after Nico Hulkenberg had to vacate 11th place on the grid because of a fuel system problem which prevented him from starting. The Mexican kept out of trouble to take the rookie honours from Valtteri Bottas, who did what Williams team mate Pastor Maldonado failed to do by keeping his FW35 on the track.
Fellow rookie Jules Bianchi drove a great race for Marussia to beat his Caterham rivals; Charles Pic finished a lap further down than his fellow Frenchman. Behind them, Marussias Max Chilton and Caterhams Giedo van der Garde had a mighty scrap over 17th place, the English rookie finally beating his Dutch counterpart comfortably.
Besides Hulkenberg and Rosberg, Maldonado failed to finish after beaching his Williams and Daniel Ricciardos race ended with a broken exhaust on his Toro Rosso.
After one race, Raikkonen leads the drivers world championship with 25 points from Alonso on 18, Vettel on 15, Massa on 12, Hamilton on 10, Webber on 8, Sutil on 6, Di Resta on 4, Button on 2 and Grosjean on 1.
Ferrari lead the constructors points with 30 to Lotuss 26, Red Bulls 23, Mercedes and Force Indias 10 and McLarens 2.
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