• Australian Grand Prix

Raikkonen takes measured victory in Melbourne

ESPNF1 Staff
March 17, 2013

Kimi Raikkonen opened his 2013 campaign with a victory at the Australian Grand Prix, making use of a two-stop strategy to beat Fernando Alonso to victory by 12.4s.

Raikkonen's long second stint was the key to his race as he kept in touch with Sebastian Vettel and the two Ferraris, who led the race early on. Raikkonen remained out on track preserving his tyres as the cars around him adopted three-stop strategies, while Alonso managed to shuffle his way ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa and Vettel.

As Alonso emerged from the pits after his third and final stop, Raikkonen was sitting pretty with a 7.7s lead which he was able to extend on his way to victory. Behind him Alonso finished 9.8s ahead of Vettel in third, with Massa fourth, Lewis Hamilton fifth and Mark Webber recovering from a poor start to take sixth.

Adrian Sutil led large chunks of the race after running a reverse strategy to the top six and went on to finish seventh. Paul di Resta, Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean took the final points positions.

Fears that Vettel would disappear in to the distance after Red Bull's qualifying performance appeared to be well-founded as he opened up a two-second gap on Massa on the opening lap. Webber's start problems returned as he dropped back to seventh place, while Alonso passed Hamilton out of turn three to take third. However, the Ferraris immediately pegged back Vettel and once Raikkonen cleared Hamilton around the outside of turn 13 on lap two he started to catch the leading trio.

First stops were early as drivers struggled with graining on the super soft tyres, and it was actually the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Rosberg who went longest before finally pitting to leave Sutil - having started on mediums - leading. Sutil had Vettel for close company with the Ferraris immediately rejoining the battle, but then Sutil started to pull away before his first stop.

Raikkonen caught up with the back of Alonso, who pit for a second time before Sutil's first. The following lap Sutil and Vettel came in together and the undercut allowed Alonso to jump them both, while a slightly later stop for Massa dropped him behind the pair and left Raikkonen clear in the lead.

Again the Mercedes were running longer and as the Alonso-Vettel-Sutil train caught Rosberg he pulled off the track with a suspected electrical problem. Hamilton was ahead and trying to make a two-stop race work but was forced to pit after locking up heavily in defence after a good scrap with Alonso.

Hamilton's stop was only two laps before Raikkonen's second but the Mercedes couldn't preserve the tyres enough and he was forced to switch to a three-stop, dropping him out of contention. Raikkonen, however, enjoyed some clear air and as all of those ahead of him pit he was left to retake the lead from Sutil.

Alonso threatened to close the gap at the start of his stint but Raikkonen was nursing his tyres and soon responded to the threat to cruise home. Sutil dropped behind Alonso before pitting early for super soft tyres and dropping back behind Hamilton and Webber as his tyres went off in the closing laps, though he did manage to hold off a late charge from team-mate di Resta as the team prioritised solid points.

While his team-mate crossed the line to win, Grosjean was forced to hold off Sergio Perez on the final lap to keep tenth place, while Jules Bianchi impressed for Marussia to finish 15th ahead of both Caterhams and team-mate Max Chilton.

Raikkonen moves away from Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory © Sutton Images