Raikkonen Wins Opening F1 Race In Melbourne

After a very dismal qualifying session starting and stopping due to the rain, the Australian Grand Prix lived up to expectations to kick start the 2013 calendar off with a boom and a victory for Lotus F1.

The start of the race was where the first major moves occurred. The main loser was Mark Webber which saw him move down the grid from 2nd to 7th before the start of turn 1. Both Ferraris were able to capitalise on Webber's mistake seeing Massa move into 2nd, Hamilton 3rd and Alonso 4th. With Hamilton eyeing up a move on Massa, Alonso pounces on him to make it a 2/3 for Ferrari by the end of lap 1.

With much overtaking happening in the opening laps, the next excitement came with the weather with several teams predicting rain within ten minutes. However, the most that came down was a few drops on only a few corners. Overall, the rain was not a worry for any team during the whole Grand Prix.

By the end of lap 5, Button had already pitted to swap his super soft tyres to mediums. This was predicted with the super softs having a high degradation level. Webber came into the pits on lap 6. However, a slow pit stop meant Webber was now at the back of the grid making it a hard fight to gain points let alone a podium at his home Grand Prix.

The race leader (Vettel) came into the pit lane on lap 7, again, to swap to the medium compound. Vettel reappeared in 11th to make the new race leader Massa with Alonso extremely close behind. Raikkonen was behind Alonso too lapping faster than both the Ferraris. A lap after Vettel came Massa into the pits in response to Vettel. However, while the Ferrari and Red Bull's tyres were going off, Raikkonen was lapping a second faster than Alonso. The Lotus F1 was already living up to expectations of not being harsh on their tyres.

By lap 11, strategists were able to gain an idea of who was on what strategy. Both Mercedes were looking to two stop seeing that they had not pitted along with the front runners meaning they were leading this Grand Prix. Both Ferraris and Red Bulls were looking at the three stopper instead. Hamilton comes into the pits on lap 14. With a clean pit stop, Hamilton moved onto the harder compound leaving Rosberg to lead the race by himself. One lap later, Rosberg pits to make himself come out just in front of Button, P9.

By lap 16, it was apparent that Vettel's qualiying pace had disappeared with both Ferraris piling up behind him. At this time, Sutil was leading the race lapping in competitive times to maintain the lead. Sutil was one of few drivers to start on the medium compound which is why he managed to move his way up to first. The leaders were getting held up by Sutil which helped the two-stoppers: especially Hamilton and Rosberg who were now catching the lead pack.

Alonso made his second stop on lap 21 with Sutil making his first stop on lap 21 with Vettel following Sutil into the pit lane (responding to Alonso). With Sutil still in front of Vettel after the pit stop, Alonso produced a flying lap to jump past Sutil and Vettel to gain the lead of the three-stoppers.

Vettel, being behind Sutil, needed to get past him if he had a chance of winning the Grand Prix. Down into turn 2 with the aid of DRS, Vettel slams his brakes on to pass Sutil on lap 22. Lap 23 sees Massa come into the pit. With a clean pit stop, he rejoins the track behind Sutil to his frustration.

Lap 25 sees Williams driver Pastor Maldonado fly off into the gravel at turn 1 to beach his car making it the second retirement of the midfield pack. Hulkenburg was the first who had to retire before the race start due to safety problems with his fuel line. A yellow flag comes out at turn 1 disabling the DRS zone for a few laps.

On lap 27, Rosberg had a reliability issue seeing him pull over just after turn 3. He heads back to the pit with his helmet on showing his frustration at having to retire in a race with much potential. The other Mercedes, Hamilton, pitted on lap 32 for his second and final stop of the race. With the pressure of Alonso and Vettel behind Hamilton, pitting him at this time meant he had a large proportion of free air to gain some competitive lap times in without having to look in his mirrors.

At lap 34, the race leader, Raikkonen, pits for the second and last time to bring him out to 5th. Out of all the two-stoppers, Raikkonen looks in the best position to take the victory. A message from Hamilton comes through on the radio stating he is not able to do 23 laps on these tyres at this pace. Therefore, it is possible we might see Hamilton move to a three-stopper.

The leader of the three stop race, Alonso, pitted on lap 40 to come out P3. This moved Raikkonen up to second which meant for Alonso to win, he will have to overtake Raikkonen and Sutil. With Alonso 7.1 seconds behind Raikkonen, the race for victory has just started.

Hamilton adopts a 'plan b' bringing Hamilton into the pits on lap 43. This drops Hamilton down to 6th giving Sutil a nice safety margin for when he stops since he has not used the super soft tyres yet. At lap 43, Raikkonen takes Sutil to take the overall lead. Using DRS along the main straight and pass turn 1, Alonso also passes Sutil to bring him closer to Raikkonen and a potential victory.

Sutil comes into the pits on lap 47 for his last pit stop. He rejoins in P5 and 6 seconds ahead of Hamilton. A few laps later, with the use of DRS, Hamilton takes Sutil into turn 3 to take a solid 5th. Along with this, Alonso desperately tries to reduce the gap between him and Raikkonen. However, with the Lotus looking after his tyres better than any other car out there, Raikkonen has always got enough grip to put in a few fast laps to increase the gap to 11 seconds by the end of the race. A great victory for Lotus and Raikkonen. A great 2nd place for Alonso and Ferrari.

Top 10 Finish

  1. Raikkonen - Lotus - 25
  2. Alonso - Ferrari - 18
  3. Vettel - Red Bull - 15
  4. Massa - Ferarri - 12
  5. Hamilton - Mercedes - 10 
  6. Webber - Red Bull - 8
  7. Sutil - Force India - 6
  8. di Resta - Force India - 4
  9. Button - Mclaren - 2
  10. Grosjean - Lotus - 1