Raikkonen wins opening F1 race of 2013
The same can be said for polesitter Sebastian Vettel who came home third in his Red Bull.
Raikkonen turned the fastest lap of the race on worn tires to put an exclamation point on his dominance.
Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) rounded out the top-5.
The 2007 world champion started from seventh on the grid and used a clever pit stop strategy to secure victory by more than 12 seconds over Ferrari’s Alonso.
Raikkonen graduated to fifth off the start and made an early change to the medium compound tires on lap 9. He completed a long stint on this set of rubber and, despite two light rain showers, stayed out longer than his closest rivals. The Finn returned to the pits on lap 34, after which the strategy unfolded perfectly as Alonso, Hamilton, Massa and Vettel made one further stop, leaving Raikkonen out in front.
Vettel converted his pole position into an immediate lead but likewise made an early switch to the medium tires. He then raced hard with Sutil, Hamilton and Massa, before taking the final podium spot. Teammate Mark Webber had a slow start and struggled with a KERS that only functioned intermittently, but had a strong finish to claim sixth overall.
"I wonder if anybody out there had money on a Lotus winning, a Ferrari second and a Red Bull in third?" wondered former F1 driver turned BBC commentator David Coulthard.
Vettel said on the podium: "The first few laps were ok but then the tires started to fall apart.
"Lotus and Ferrari had incredible pace and we were third quickest."
Spaniard Alonso admitted it is a "worry" that Raikkonen's Lotus coped better with the high degradation of the new Pirelli tires -- of the top six finishers, only the Finn was able to make just two pitstops.
Alonso said: "We only have five days to prepare for the next race (Malaysia) but we will again be a tough opponent."
Massa admitted he was disappointed by Ferrari's choice of strategy after losing a position to teammate Fernando Alonso at the second pit stop.
Asked whether he was pleased with how his strategy panned out, Massa said: "No, I'm not pleased. When you are there fighting with a car and I was second and close to Sebastian and then suddenly a car behind stops ... he [Alonso] stopped pretty early to be honest - it was a risk, but it worked.
"Looking at the degradation we had on Friday we had 15 laps on the tire and he stopped after lap 11 on the tire. It was a risk, but it worked, the track improved after and it was much better to keep the pace with more rubber on the track and he didn't have any car in front. It worked.
"For sure when you are behind it's always easy to stop before and try to take a risk, but it worked. For sure, you are always a little bit disappointed to lose two positions and then after I was always behind and trying to overtake and I was using a lot the tires as well. I'm a little bit disappointed because of this but overall I'm happy and the way we started the season was very positive."
Raikkonen leads the Drivers’ Championship with 25 points to Fernando Alonso’s 18, whilst the Lotus team occupies second position in the Constructors’ Championship with 26 points to Ferrari’s 30.
Sebastian Vettel: "I think you're always a little disappointed when you start first and don't finish first, but overall it was a good weekend for us. We had a good day today with a pole and a podium - but in the race we were a little too aggressive with the tires and lost the front and the rears, while others did a little better. There are always areas where you can improve, but the result we got today is fair. We didn't see Kimi on the track, he was too quick and Fernando jumped us at a vulnerable time - but we can be happy with third."
Mark Webber: "We had a few issues on the grid, getting the telemetry from the car to the pits, which wasn't ideal in terms of the guys knowing where to set everything up for the start. We lost KERS also for the first part of the race. It looked like we were quite heavy on the first set of tires and we weren't that quick to challenge for the win as a team today. We had a slow pit stop (which was due to a front jack failure), which put me behind Jenson. We salvaged something in the end, but that was Melbourne today and it was disappointing not to get more out of it. It was hard to fight against others on a two-stop."
Kimi Raikkonen “I’m happy for the team and for myself also. We’ve had a quick car all weekend and there were no issues with it either, so we could just focus on trying different things and getting the setup how we wanted. I had a good feeling that we would be ok with the tires after practice and the team got the strategy perfect. I made a few places at the start and then had a good battle with Lewis [Hamilton] but after that it was quite simple; probably one of my easiest wins. You can’t start the season much better than winning the first race and of course we hope we can be fighting at the front of the Championship, but there’s a long way to go still and we need to keep pushing hard all the way.”
Romain Grosjean “Something felt wrong with my car, so I have to sit down with the team and analyze where the issue came from. It felt so good all weekend until the race itself, but in the end the race was long and quite difficult for me. We know that Albert Park can be a tricky circuit and the weather has certainly not helped today. It’s been a great weekend for the team with Kimi’s win so it’s clear there’s pace in the car. Let’s hope I can unlock that pace too next weekend in Sepang.”
Eric Boullier, Team Principal "I’m very happy. After Kimi’s great start we were hoping that we could achieve a podium finish, then as the race unfolded and we saw the other teams pitting – showing that they were on three-stop strategies – our position became stronger and stronger. It’s a fantastic feeling to open the season in this way. Kimi drove impeccably all weekend and gave the team his all. Romain had a difficult race and we have to analyze what went wrong for him. This win is a further testament to all the hard work which goes on at Enstone and we owe tremendous thanks to each and every employee. We head to Malaysia in the best position we could be. ”
James Allison, Technical Director “It was a splendid thing we saw today. It’s a day like this which make everything about this job worthwhile and that will be true for everyone involved with the team. It’s great. We were a little deflated after qualifying, as we knew the car had better pace than our grid positions suggested. Nevertheless we were confident from the long run pace we’d seen on Friday that we could make a two-stop strategy work. It was lovely to see the lap times ticking off metronomically without any real fear that the tires weren’t going to go the distance. Hopefully we can repeat Kimi’s fantastic performance again next weekend with both cars.”
Jenson Button: "Having won the Australian Grand Prix three times so far in my career - in 2009, 2010 and 2012 - you'd have to say that today's ninth place isn't really much to write home about.
"Having said that, I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved here in Melbourne today. It was a tricky race, and our car isn't yet quick enough, so I think the team did a great job to achieve even as much as we did.
"As a result, I scored two World Championship points today, which makes 1001 in my career I'm reliably informed, and to be honest I don't think I could have scored any more than that. But, although that's a nice stat, it doesn't ease the pain caused by the knowledge that our car still needs a lot of work done before it's properly competitive.
"Looking forward to Malaysia next weekend, I think we've got a tough few days ahead of us, but hopefully we can now do some number-crunching in an effort to understand our car a bit better and extract a bit more performance out of it there."
Sergio Perez: "That was a very, very tough race.
"I got a good start, which is always a bonus, but, after that, even though the team did a great job with the strategy, we just didn't have enough pace to make significant further progress.
"Having said that, I nearly managed to score a point, but in the end I couldn't quite get up to 10th place at the end. To finish 11th is never really satisfying, but I think Jenson and I both drove pretty good races today. In fact I want to say 'well done' to Jenson, who maximized the performance of his car really well to finish ninth.
"Our engineers are aware that our car isn't yet as quick as it needs to be, but I know I'm now part of the best team in Formula 1 so I'm certain they'll improve it fast.
"Going back to this afternoon's race, I don't think the Albert Park circuit suited our car very well - it accentuated its problems in fact - so I'm hoping we'll be able to put up a better showing in Sepang next weekend.
"Last but not least, today will always be a very special day for me, because it was the day I made my McLaren debut, which is something that every driver always dreams of. As I say, it would have been even better if I could have scored points, but that'll come soon."
Lewis Hamilton: "I'm happy with our result today and it's much better than we expected for the first race of the season. The car felt really good out there; I had a strong first stint and was able to make the supersofts last longer than most of the others. We'd planned for two stops but converted to a three-stop strategy during the race. I don't quite know where we lost the ground to the cars ahead so we'll have a look at the race again now and figure it out.
"The important thing is that we have a car that we can really work with and the team have done a fantastic job to get us to this position. Thanks to everyone here and back at base for their support over my first race weekend with Mercedes. Now we'll look forward to Malaysia next weekend and hopefully build on this positive start with an improved performance."
Nico Rosberg: "An electric problem finished my race which was a shame as I was on a two-stop strategy and in a good position to score a decent result. There are lots of positives that we can take from the weekend however. The team have developed a solid car over the winter, I had a good qualifying pace and the car also ran well in the wet. It looks like we have started to close the gap to the front runners and we can build on that."
Nico Hulkenberg: "I'm bitterly disappointed about what happened today, but at the same time I'm not blaming anyone. Things like this happen in racing. What is particularly bothering me is the fact that I lost all this mileage today, which is so important particularly at the beginning of the season. It would have given me a lot of valuable data and information for the next races. Obviously, Melbourne is not a good place for me. It was my third Grand Prix here and the third time that I leave this place empty handed. The only good thing is that the next race takes place next weekend."
Esteban Gutierrez: "My main goal was to finish the race, and to achieve that is really enjoyable. I want to thank the whole team, because yesterday in qualifying we had a good chance and today we were able to recover some of what we lost yesterday. We have a good base and in the future we will try and push forward."
Adrian Sutil: "What a fantastic race and a great feeling. I started on the medium tires, a different strategy to most of the cars ahead of me, and I think this was the right decision. The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tires so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early.
"It was not long until I was leading the race - my first time leading in Formula One. After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again, so I knew that it was possible to come away with a great result. My final stint on the super-softs was much more difficult because the tires started graining and I lost a few places.
"I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tires came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place. This result for the team is a perfect way to start the season and I want to say a big 'thank you' to the team once again."
Paul Di Resta: "Seventh and eighth for the team is a great result and a great way to kick off the season. We've shown we have a car that is kind on its tires and that helped us today by making less stops than some of our rivals.
"I feel I had a car that could have finished seventh, but I was stuck behind some of the three-stoppers at the start of my second stint, and that cost me quite a lot of track position. There are a lot of positives to take from the race, as well as some things that we can improve to make the car stronger, but we're in a good position heading to Malaysia."
Pastor Maldonado: "It was a disappointing end to a difficult weekend for myself and the team. The car was not responding as we hoped in the conditions today and unfortunately I lost the back end and ended up in the gravel. We need to work hard to solve the problems in the car to be ready for the next race in Malaysia."
Valtteri Bottas: "I had a good start from my grid position and it felt great to be back racing again. A small mistake a few laps in cost me some places though. We got the maximum performance we could from the car today and although the pace isn't there yet, there are still some positives to take away. The next race is only a week away, so we will work very hard to prepare as best we can and try to score our first points of the season."
Jean-Eric Vergne: "It was a hot start, I was pushed to the outside and I ended up going through a gravel trap at one point. After that, the first stint on the Option was only average, but the last two sections on the Prime tire were very good and competitive and I was even in the points for a couple of corners right at the end, but as I passed Grosjean I flat-spotted my two front tires and overshot my braking point when I tried to chase Button. Overall, I think the weekend showed we have a good car with which we ought to be able to go hunting for points in every race.
"So I'm disappointed at not scoring here, but my hopes for the coming races are now higher than when we first started this weekend. I think that fundamentally, we have a good car."
Daniel Ricciardo: "In the end I had to retire with a problem linked to the exhaust. I reported back to the pit wall that I could hear strange noises and I tried to fix it by changing a few functions, but it was not to be. At the start of the race, I struggled to find grip and it felt like I was driving on ice, as it took a very long time to warm up the tires.
"But afterwards, after about ten laps, I got up to speed and my lap times were not too bad, but by then I had lost too much time in the early stages. I think we have more homework to do when it comes to the tires. Not the ending I wanted for the first Grand Prix of the season, especially here in my home race."
Charles Pic: "That wasn't too bad a race for us. Of course we'd prefer to finish higher but I think that at this stage of the season this reflects our current performance levels.
"We started on the supersofts and our pace was ok for the first stint but the tires dropped off very quickly. In contrast, when we went onto the mediums the degradation levels were very good so we were able to push the second stint much longer than we'd planned and that gave us a chance to fight. Unfortunately towards the end of the race we had a KERS failure which obviously cut our outright pace and prevented us from taking full advantage of the good tire wear we saw on the primes.
"We know that it's going to be similar to this for the first few races, but with what we have coming it's going to be a really interesting season. We have quite a few small details we need to work on for the next race but it's good to have a real fight on our hands, good for the team and the fans so let's see how this progresses."
Giedo van der Garde: "For me that was a reasonable start to my F1 career. It was really important to finish my first race and that's exactly what I did so I'm pretty happy with how it ended up.
"I started the race on the supersofts, passed a few people in the first turn and was keeping up with Bianchi until the first pitstop, even with the deg levels on the option tires. Unfortunately I had a slow puncture on the first set of mediums and that cost me time and position. We had to stop much earlier than planned to put a new set of mediums on and that meant a change to the strategy, but it's all good experience for me.
"I've said all through pre-season that the first races are a chance for me to learn and today was really good for that. I feel good physically and now we have a lot more information about tire wear and how to manage that so we'll take that to next week's race Malaysia and see what we can do at our first home race of the season."
Jules Bianchi: "I am very happy with my race today and really can't imagine a better start to my first season of F1. Yesterday's qualifying was quite a challenge but today I felt very calm as I looked forward to this moment. Generally everything went very smoothly in the race and we worked our way through the tire management issues as well as we could in order to maximize the possibilities. We have not had the luxury of time so I would like to thanks my engineers, car crew and the whole team for helping me to be as prepared as possible and for a great job today. It would seem that the Team have made a big step over the winter and it is very nice to see them reacting positively to this."
Max Chilton: "I am happy with my Formula 1 debut and although it was less than straightforward, it's good to get it under my belt and to know where we stand relative to the competition. The coming-together with Van der Garde early in the race damaged my front wing, which meant I had to stop for a wing change. This put me back out on track such that I hit the blue flag period and it was a bit of a battle to recover the ground I lost.
"I had a really good fight with Van der Garde and closed the gap enough to be able to pass him. From there I was able to demonstrate more of my true pace and I was posting laps around three seconds faster than him. Although the race had its frustrations, I feel like I've learned a lot that I perhaps wouldn't have learned otherwise and that will be useful experience over the next few races. I'm looking forward to Malaysia now so I can roll all that back into my racing and be able to take the fight to the midfield pack."
Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:29.274
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