Strategy Pushes Raikkonen In F-1 Opener

Kimi Raikkonen (center) shared the podium with Fernando Alonso (left) and Sebastian Vettel at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington photo)

“I was pretty disappointed this morning after the qualifying,” the former world champion said. “Obviously there was only one lap really on the dries and I took it a bit too easy and got a bit of a small mistake in one corner. It was more timing and getting it right than really the maximum speed from all the cars, so not the ideal starting place but it was still ten places better than last year, so not a disaster in that way. I knew that my car is quite good. It’s been feeling good all weekend and when we did the longer run it felt good. We only destroy the front tires so we knew if we get the front tires lasting it should be fine. In a way I was pretty confident – but of course you have to get through the start and the first lap and it’s the first race so you never know what’s going to happen with the conditions and the circuit after the rain and with tires, so there’s a lot of question marks. I felt I had a good car and it turned out to be pretty good.”

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 doesn’t favor his style, which relies heavily on traction.

Hamilton looked racy early on as his Mercedes went 12 laps on the super softs, 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 super softs.

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.