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Raikkonen makes winning start
Kimi Raikkonen proved he and Lotus have what it takes this year to become Formula One world champions after storming to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Lotus suggested during winter testing they had taken a step forward from last season, and they underlined that around Melbourne's Albert Park as Raikkonen took the chequered flag for the 20th time in his F1 career.
The 2007 world champion was joined by two-times title winner Fernando Alonso and reigning three-times king Sebastian Vettel on the podium. On his debut for Mercedes Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth, with Force India's Paul Di Resta eighth and Jenson Button down in ninth in a struggling McLaren.
Raikkonen grabbed the win on the back of a two-stop strategy compared to the five drivers who finished behind him, with Felipe Massa fourth ahead of Hamilton.
As for Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber, his home race in Australia was again agonising - and it was his own poor start that proved his undoing, as has so often been the case in the past. Webber went backwards once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start, and by the end of lap one was down in seventh, recovering one place by the conclusion.
Throughout the 58 laps the lead changed hands many times as the pit stops unfolded, with even Force India's Adrian Sutil front-running for a number of laps after starting out on two runs of medium tyres. However, on his return to F1 after a year out, his forced run to the finish on the supersoft tyres saw him drop out of the reckoning, ending up seventh.
For McLaren and Button, a winner three times in the past four years prior to this race, their issues run very deep as team principal Martin Whitmarsh has already made clear. On his maiden outing for the team Sergio Perez missed out on a point by 0.6secs to Lotus' Romain Grosjean, with the Mexican down in 11th.
As for another new boy in Max Chilton, the 21-year-old from Reigate was 17th, two laps down, and at least not last as he had Giedo van der Garde in his Caterham behind him. That meant there were four retirements - Daniel Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado for Williams and Nico Hulkenberg in his Sauber.
Raikkonen had started from seventh on the grid after the second and third qualifying sessions had been held over until Sunday due to adverse weather on Saturday, but made his team's strategy work to perfection. "I was a bit disappointed from qualifying. I took it a bit too easy and made a small mistake at one point," said Raikkonen.
"It wasn't the ideal starting place, but then it was still 10 better than last year. The car had been feeling good all weekend, and we knew if we could make the front tyres last we would be fine. There were still a lot of question marks going into the race but it turned out to be good, and hopefully we can have many more of these kind of races."