Raikko­nen wins Aus­tralian GP


Kimi Raikko­nen drove a bril­liant race to win the Aus­tralian Grand Prix for Lo­tus on Sun­day as the new For­mula One sea­son opened with an ab­so­lute thriller at Al­bert Park.

Fin­land's 2007 world cham­pion rode to vic­tory on a two-stop strat­egy and crossed the line 12.4 sec­onds clear of Fer­rari's Fer­nando Alonso with triple world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel round­ing out the podium in third place for Red Bull.

Vet­tel got away cleanly from pole po­si­tion but the va­ri­ety of strate­gies forced on the teams by the tyres and the pace shown by Red Bull's ri­vals en­sured this was never go­ing to be a pro­ces­sion for the 25-yearold Ger­man.

A few light show­ers contributed to an in­trigu­ing race but never threat­ened to dis­fig­ure it as top drivers en­gaged in bat­tles around the cir­cuit and the lead fre­quently changed hands.

Seven cars led the race at one stage or an­other but af­ter Raikko­nen hit the front for the sec­ond time on lap 43, it looked like only a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem would stop him from win­ning his 20th grand prix to match com­pa­triot Mika Hakki­nen's ca­reer tally.

"I knew I had a good car so I was con­fi­dent we could have a good race," said Raikko­nen, the former McLaren and Fer­rari driver who made his come­back last sea­son af­ter two years in ral­ly­ing, on a podium of cham­pi­ons. "It was a pretty nice race.

"We are happy with the win but there's an aw­ful lot of work to do to win the cham­pi­onship."

It was the first sea­sonopen­ing win by a team called Lo­tus since Amer­i­can Mario An­dretti won the 1978 Ar­gen­tine Grand Prix.

Alonso's Brazil­ian team mate Felipe Massa fin­ished fourth ahead of 2008 cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton in his first race for his new team Mercedes af­ter leav­ing McLaren.

Adrian Su­til, re­turn­ing to the sport af­ter a year out, en­joyed a long pe­riod as the un­likely leader of the race but fin­ished sev­enth, just ahead of his Force In­dia team mate Paul Di Resta.

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