Ice Ice Baby
Originally posted at MichaelLamonato.com
Kimi Raikkonen has scythed up the grid to take the first win of the season at Albert Park.Raikkonen’s Lotus was only thereabouts in qualifying, starting the race from seventh on the grid. A solid start put him into the top five, and he fought his way up from there.“I was a bit disappointed this morning after qualifying,” explained the Finn. “It was more about timing than maximum speed for all the cars, so not an ideal starting place [in seventh].”“I knew that my car was quite good, it was feeling good all weekend.The secret to Raikkonen’s controlled victory was the Lotus’ supreme tyre use, which enabled him to run a two-stop strategy.“In a way I was very 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.“We got it exactly right. We followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us. It was one of the easiest races I’ve done, to win the race.”Fernando Alonso came home second for Ferrari, the Spaniard keeping himself in contention all race, but ultimately couldn’t compete with his three-stop programme.He jumped from fifth to third on the grid – behind Vettel and team-mate Massa, and struggled to move forward.He was called in before Massa on lap 21 to get ahead of the second Ferrari, while Massa maintained pace at the front of the field. Alonso got ahead of him when the Brazilian stop three laps later.Alonso briefly held the lead, but his third stop forced him down the order, his fate sealed.“I think it’s difficult to know if we could do two stops today,” said Alonso. “You need to commit to one strategy before the start of the race.”“Maybe you can go a bit longer in the stints, but if you have to stop, you have to overtake. If you commit to that, thhere’s no way to find a two stop [route].The pole sitter Sebastian Vettel came home in third, despite his car arguably being the fastest on the day.The reigning World Champion pulled away from the field easily, but it soon became apparent that RBR9 had significant tyre issues.The wear rate on both Red Bull cars limited his strategy flexibility, and he succumbed to Alonso during the second stop window.“Very happy with third place,” said the German. “When you start from pole you want to win, but I think we can be happy with the pace this weekend.”“The pace was there. Qualifying was pretty good for us. The first two laps of the race were pretty good. Obviously after that we couldn’t keep up.“Considering it was the first race of the season, we seemed to just continue from where we left off.“[But] obviously there’s a bit of homework to do regarding the tyres, so we’ll see where we are next week.”The (temporary) surprise of the day was Adrian Sutil, kept himself in the mix for much of the race, and leading twice up until the final fifteen laps.Sutil ran a counter strategy of medium-medium-supersoft, impressing with his arresting pace during the first two twenty-odd lap stints.He drove with conviction but his race was undone by a too-soon switch to the supersoft tyre, his car’s easiness with the prime compound not translating to Pirelli’s softest rubber.His temporary charge on new tyres was halted by appalling wear, and he ended the afternoon in eighth, shattering his team’s high hopes.Felipe Massa finished in fourth with a feisty performance, the Brazilian intimating his return to pre-2009 form.Lewis Hamilton was the sole finishing Mercedes, showing consistent pace throughout the Grand Prix to buoy his team, which lost Nico Rosberg’s car to an electrical failure.Mark Webber suffered from another trademark pedestrian start, falling to seventh on the first lap and battling Red Bull’s tyre wear issues to finish sixth.Sutil in seventh led home his team-mate Paul di Resta in eighth. The Scotsman was only ever thereabouts in terms of pace, though his race we more representative of Force India’s true performance.Jenson Button capped off a disappointing weekend for McLaren in tenth, the 2012 Melbourne winner clawing back just one place as he languished at the bottom of the points.Romain Grosjean in the less successful Lotus split the two McLaren, battling with Sergio Perez in the final laps, eventually beating the Mexican.Jean-Eric Vergne finished twelfth, ahead of first-timers Esteban Gutierrez, Valtteri Bottas, and Jules Bianchi.Charles Pic beat Max Chilton over the line, whil Giedo van der Garde finished last.Daniel Ricciardo retired after 39 laps with an exhaust problem, while Pastor Maldonado beached his car in the gravel on lap 24.Nico Hulkenberg’s race was never to be due to a fuel issue that was beyond repair of his Sauber mechanics.Formula One continues next weekend in Kuala Lumpur for the 2013 Malaysia Grand Prix.