Kimi Räikkönen Takes Australian Grand Prix in First F1 Race of the Season
The 2013 Formula One season began with a surprisingly dull start last night in Melbourne as Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen effortlessly led the final 16 laps to win the Grand Prix. The famously low-key Fin finished 12.4 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and 22.3 ahead of 2012 World Champion Sebastian Vettel.
As Nic pointed out Saturday, the basic shape of F1 cars is so heavily regulated that they are practically identical (a fact I was again reminded of when my sister, watching her first F1 race, professed the same sentiment. Compare this to ALMS at the 12 Hours of Sebring, also held Saturday). Yesterday, as it turns out, was determined by the tires and the omnipresent rainclouds.
The lead up to the race was marred with difficulties, as heavy rains forced the qualifying laps to be moved to only six hours before the race commenced. Typically, practice laps are run on Fridays and Saturdays, with a one-hour qualifying session on Saturday afternoon split into three distinct, back-to-back sessions (Q1, Q2, and Q3), and races held on Sunday. Due to the dangerous, unpredictable weather, Q1 occurred late Saturday, with Q2 and Q3 scheduled at 11 AM Sunday, only six hours before the race began. Sebastian Vettel would end up taking pole position, with teammate Mark Webber in a close second. Sauber’s Nico Hülkenberg was disqualified before the race started, due to a fuel system failure.
[VIDEO] Highlights from the 2013 Australian GP: http://video.nbcsports.msnbc.com/nbc-sports/51213862
By the time the Australian GP commenced, the rain had stopped and most of the starting grid was shod in super-soft tires. The first few turns proved to be uneventful, although after just a few laps, most of the first-tier racers were already headed back to the paddock to switch the the medium compound tires. Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who started with the medium compounds, was able to lead the pack for the majority of the first half of the race, which was undoubtedly welcome for the man who was forced to sit out last season. He eventually had to pit to change tires that lasted half the race, although he would soon find himself again at the front of the pack.
Sutil seemed like he could have been a huge upset as the race went on. His tires couldn’t make the entire race, however, and he would eventually have to switch to the super-softs that had given everyone else trouble at the start. Heavy rain would force drivers to all switch to different compounds, but the looming clouds didn’t make it to the track in time to save Sutil; he had to pit a third time much like the rest of the drivers, and simply couldn’t rebound. Force India is no Ferrari.
Räikkönen, on the other hand, was able to conserve tires and only pit twice. Even running on worn-down super-soft tires, he was able to overtake Sutil before the German’s third pit and stayed there, even with Alonso trailing right behind at some times. The tire conservation strategy paid off for Räikkönen, allowing him to finish with a fantastic lead over Alonso.
In addition to Hülkenberg, three other racers were sent home with disabled vehicles. Heading into Turn 1 in Lap 24, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado lost control of his car, sending him into a spin that launched him straight off the track. Just two laps later, Nico Rosberg was sent home due to an electrical failure in his Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo of Torro Rosso was the last to leave in Lap 39 due to a broken exhaust.
The second race of the season is held next weekend in Malaysia. Be sure to follow Downshift Autos on Twitter, as we will post news as it occurs.
[VIDEO] Final lap of the 2013 Australian GP: http://video.nbcsports.msnbc.com/nbc-sports/51213767