Lotus' Raikkonen wins F1's Australian GP
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Kimi Raikkonen won Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, jumpstarting Lotus' bid to challenge the series' bigger teams for the 2013 championship.
Raikkonen managed to pull off a two-stop strategy while his six nearest rivals all needed three, taking the lead for good on lap 43 of 58 in a race that had seven different leaders. The Finn became the 15th driver in F1 history to earn 20 grand prix wins.
"I thought it should be easy to do it,'' Raikkonen said of the two-stop strategy, "and I got a good start and it went well.''
"We had a good plan and followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us. It was one of the easiest races I have done to win a race.''
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was second. The Spaniard looked to have a chance of winning when he trailed Raikkonen by 6.2 seconds with 12 laps to go, but could not make up ground. Still he was satisfied with where Ferrari stands compared to the poor early races last season.
"I am extremely happy. We had a difficult start to last year, and this year we are much more optimistic,'' Alonso said. "We will be again a tough opponent.''
Pole sitter and three-time reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was third in his Red Bull. He was forced to pit after just seven laps due to worn super-soft tires and never threatened thereafter.
"After a good two or three laps the tires were falling apart and we could not go as far as other people,'' Vettel said. "We have to admit sometimes other people are faster.''
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton in his first race for Mercedes and local favorite Mark Webber of Australia in his Red Bull.
Force India pair Adrian Sutil - who twice led the race and was the man Raikkonen passed for the lead - faded to seventh and finished ahead of teammate Paul di Resta. McLaren's Jenson Button and Lotus' Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10.
While Lotus was acknowledged even in preseason testing to have a pace comparable to the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari, some had raised doubts whether the team would have the budget to develop it throughout the season.
Raikkonen was not yet thinking about a championship challenge.
"It doesn't really change our aim and our goal for the year,'' Raikkonen said. "There is an awful lot still to do to try and win the championship.''