2013 F1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX REVIEW
Kimi Raikkonen and Team Lotus sprung a surprise in Melbourne with the team's second victory in three races. While his rivals stopped three times, the Finn stopped only twice to bring home his Renault-engined Lotus for the win.
Force India's Adrian Sutil also put on a great performance, leading almost a good chunk of the race before having to switch to the super-soft tyres
Practice and Qualifying
Melbourne's changeable weather turned three sessions of practice on its head when heavy rain snapped Qualifying in two.
McLaren looked lost in the free practice sessions, with awful handling and terrible ride while Mercedes' Nico Rosberg performed strongly as the potential cat among the pigeons.
After Q1, and multiple delays, Q2 and Q3 were postponed to Sunday morning at 11am, which was damp rather than wet.
The Red Bulls locked out the front row with ease (Webber missing pole by four tenths) but Lewis Hamilton (third) upstaged his German teammate in the Mercedes, who ended the session sixth.
Felipe Massa beat teammate Alonso to fourth and the Lotus pair took the fourth row, followed by Force India's di Resta and McLaren's Button.
McLaren debutante Perez ended up 15th beside Williams' racing newcomer Valtteri Bottas, who himself out-qualified Maldonado. Ricciardo pushed his Toro Rosso to fourteenth, behind Vergne.
Nico Hulkenberg didn't even make it to the grid for his first race for Sauber, a fuel system problem keeping him in the garage. Force India's Sutil got a steward's reprimand for driving down pitlane too slowly in qualifying.
The field lined up on slicks, with the first ten all on the less fancied softer rubber.
Webber had a terrible start, letting the Ferraris and Mercedes straight through, along with a Lotus, that of Raikkonen.
“We had a lot of issues on the grid before the race even started. We had a lot of problems getting the telemetry from the car to the pits, which is less than ideal," Webber said.
"We lost KERS, we lost a lot of things for the start and we really were on the ropes before the lights went out."
Perez picked up three places while Button made one place to ninth.
Raikkonen and Hamilton enjoyed a couple of laps fighting over fourth, the Finn eventually prevailing around the outside.
Button discarded the super soft tyres on lap 4, the first of the front runners to do so.
Up front, Vettel was being chased down by Massa while Alonso and Webber pitted on lap 5 for the better medium compound tyres.
The battle for the lead ended temporarily on lap 8 as Vettel pitted for new tyres, dropping behind Maldonado. This left a very fast Raikkonen to haul in the Ferraris. Massa pitted the very next lap, leaving Alonso to the lead.
Alonso and Raikkonen pitted together at the end of lap 9 - and they left together, with barely a tenth exchanged, Alonso holding on to his lead.
Hamilton's super-softs lasted until the end of lap 13, dropping him to eighth and Rosberg followed a lap later.
Grand Prix returnee Sutil led the race for many laps in the Force India, his medium compound tyres keeping him out for far longer than even the best of the runners on super-softs. He kept Vettel in check, with a 1.6 second gap.
Webber pitted again on lap 19, having been stuck behind Button since his first, slow stop.
Alonso too came in a few laps later to try and get him out of sync with Sutil, Vettel and Massa.
Vettel was beginning to struggle when he pitted in lock-step with Sutil, the Force India driver maintaining his lead. Alonso swept in front of Sutil in turn one as he accelerated out of the pits.
Vettel chose the next lap to fire past a cautious Sutil in turn three and he set off after Alonso.
Massa pitted on lap 24, dropping him behind what would become the leading pack and Raikkonen took over the top spot.
Maldonado ended his race by dumping his Williams into the gravel at turn one after getting his left rear on a slippery white line under braking, the second year in a row he's not finished at Albert Park.
Rosberg's race ended on lap 27 with a suspected gearbox problem.
Raikkoen at this point was leading Hamilton by thirteen seconds, followed by Alonso, Vettel, Sutil and Massa, with the second Force India of di Resta in seventh and Webber in eighth.
Light rain began to fall on lap 29, with teams telling the drivers it would just be a light shower.
On lap 31, Alonso and Hamilton battled hard for second, with the Briton gamely holding him back until locking up badly at turn 12 with Alonso prudently waiting until turn thirteen to go past. Hamilton pitted straight away as a result.
Raikkonen pitted from the lead on lap 35 and a strong stop put him out behind Massa. Alonso grabbed the lead with both hands set a series of laps in the 1m30s region, desperate to stay ahead of Vettel and be in contention in the final laps.
Massa pitted again on lap 37, allowing Raikkonen through. Vettel pitted a lap later for his third stop, the race win ebbing away from him and Red Bull as he came out behind Hamilton.
Raikkonen came in on lap 38 while Sutil, amazingly, continued on only his second set of tyres, the German using his free tyre choice to huge advantage. Webber pitted too, for his third and final stop.
Ricciardo trundled into the pits on lap 41 and retired, a broken exhaust header ruining his day.
"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," Ricciardo said.
He had also endured trouble with tyres, unable to get enough heat into them to be able to set fast times.
Webber had a brief tussle with di Resta whose Force India was both wide and fast in both DRS zones, made worse by Webber's lack of KERS.
The Australian lost patience and forced his way past at turn nine in a brave move. He then passed Vergne a couple of laps later for seventh at turn three.
Raikkonen passed Sutil for the lead while Alonso reeled off another series of fast laps. He drew up behind Sutil and quickly dispensed with the Force India driver, who was yet to stop for the less favoured super-softs.
Alonso then took off after Raikkonen, who was four seconds down the road. Raikkonen responded, stretching his advantage to eight seconds.
Sutil was caught by Lewis Hamilton on lap 51 as the German tried to make the tyres last slightly longer than anyone else had. This also allowed Webber to close in.
Hamilton got by Sutil and Webber tried to follow him through. Sutil defended robustly, but once again Webber was having none of it and held his nerve to pass at the back of the circuit around the outside.
Fernando Alonso had a heart-stopping moment when he nearly went into the back of the Caterham of Charles Pic at turn fifteen. He emerged unscathed, but it can't have been good for his blood pressure.
In the end, Kimi Raikkonen won by a commanding 12.4 seconds, with Alonso and Vettel completing the podium. Massa came home fourth, followed by Hamilton, Webber, Sutil, di Resta and Button.
"We followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us. I could save the tyres and go fast if I needed," said Raikkonen.
"It was one of the easiest races I have done to win. Hopefully we can have many more of these races."
Formula 1 returns next week at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
- Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault 1h30m03.225s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari + 12.451s
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault + 22.346s
- Felipe Massa - Ferrari + 33.577s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes + 45.561s
- Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault + 46.800s
- Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes + 1m05.068s
- Paul di Resta - Force India-Mercedes + 1m08.449s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes + 1m21.630s
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault + 1m22.759s
- Sergio Perez - McLaren-Mercedes + 1m23.367s
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1m23.857s
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Renault + 1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
- Charles Pic - Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
- Giedo van der Garde - Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1m29.274s
Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Nico Rosberg - Mercedes
Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault
Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari