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Raikkonen claims 'easy' victory at Australian Grand Prix

updated 4:48 AM EDT, Sun March 17, 2013
Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Lotus celebrates after winning the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, Melbourne. March 17, 2013.
Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Lotus celebrates after winning the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, Melbourne. March 17, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kimi Raikkonen won Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne
  • Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel also on the podium
  • Lewis Hamilton finished fifth on debut drive for Mercedes
  • Round two takes place in Malaysia next weekend

(CNN) -- "Easy."

That's how Kimi Raikkonen summed up his victory at Sunday's Formula One season-opener at Melbourne.

The Lotus driver came from seventh on the grid to claim maximum points and beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso into second with reigning world champion and polesitter Sebastian Vettel third.

Raikkonen, nicknamed "The Ice Man", kept his cool throughout to see off the attentions of Alonso, the man who replaced him at Ferrari at the end of the 2009 season.

And the 33-year-old believes his opening day triumph could shape Lotus' season ahead of next week's Malaysian Grand Prix.

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Read: Raikkonen -- Lotus can win F1 title

"I made a few places at the start and then had a good battle with Lewis [Hamilton] before I eventually managed to get past," Raikkonen told his team's official website.

"After that it was quite simple; probably one of my easiest wins.

"You can't start the season much better than winning the first race and of course we hope we can be fighting at the front of the Championship.

"But there's a long way to go still and we need to keep pushing hard all the way through.

"I think it will be two or three race before we really see where all the teams are.

"Hopefully we can qualify a bit better at the next race and have a similar performance."

Read: Vettel under pressure

Raikkonen has been here before.

Six years ago, wearing the red of Ferrari for the very first time, Raikkonen illuminated Albert Park with a debut victory which would catapult him towards his first and so far only, world title.

Race results top 10

1. Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus 1:30:03.225

2. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +00:12.451

3. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull +00:22.346

4. Felipe Massa - Ferrari +00:33.577

5. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +00:45.561

6. Mark Webber - Red Bull +00:46.800

7. Adrian Sutil - Force India +01:64.068

8. Paul di Resta - Force India +01:67.449

9. Jenson Button - McLaren +01:80.630

10. Romain Grosjean - Lotus +01:81.759

Time has passed but the class remains. His sole victory last season came in the 18th round at Abu Dhabi, while he also claimed second place on three separate occasions.

Two years away from the sport, where he spent time racing in NASCAR and the World Rally Championship, appears to have done little harm to the confidence of a man who finished 74 points off champion Vettel last season.

With all the focus on whether Ferrari can finally end Red Bull's dominance and whether Alonso can finally overtake Vettel, Raikkonen has faded into the background.

It is not a position he would be unhappy with. Raikkonen has always been a quieter man, one to do his talking on his track and away from the media and public opinion.

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Last year's third place finish in the drivers' standings at least gave encouragement that Lotus was on to something, although it is far too soon to say whether its challenge be sustained over an entire season.

At least at Melbourne it proved the real deal, with Raikkonen's two-stop strategy enough to see off his rivals, who elected to head into the pits on three occasions.

"We've had a quick car all weekend and there were no issues with it either, so we could just focus on trying different things and getting the setup how we wanted," he added.

"I'm really pleased with how the car performed here; I felt like I could push when I wanted to and it was never too difficult to find the speed.

"The team got the strategy perfect; apart from maybe Force India I don't think the others looked like they could do the same thing."

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While Raikkonen managed to hold off Alonso's challenge, the Spaniard is remaining philosophical after Ferrari managed to finish ahead of rival Red Bull.

"Finishing ahead of the Red Bull tastes like a win, even if we know that despite today's race result, they are still the quickest," he told reporters.

"Now we can expect another weekend (in Malaysia) with very changeable weather and one that also puts a lot of stress on the cars from a mechanical point of view and on the drivers, from a physical one.

"But we can tackle it calmly on the back of this good result."

"We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best," he said.

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Vettel had hoped his achievement in securing pole position in Saturday's rescheduled qualifying session would help his quest for a fourth successive title get off to the perfect start.

But the Red Bull driver felt that tire degradation cost him as the race went progressed.

"I think you're always a little disappointed when you start first and don't finish first, but overall it was a good weekend for us," he told reporters.

"We had a good day today with a pole and a podium - but in the race we were a little too aggressive with the tires and lost the front and the rears, while others did a little better.

"There are always areas where you can improve, but the result we got today is fair.

"We didn't see Kimi on the track, he was too quick and Fernando (Alonso) jumped us at a vulnerable time - but we can be happy with third."

Read: Hamilton brushes off title talk

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Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton believes his opening race success with new team Mercedes is a sign of things to come.

Hamilton, who left McLaren at the end of last season, claimed a fifth place finish after teammate Nico Rosberg had suffered electronic problems on lap 26.

"I'm happy with our result today and it's much better than we expected for the first race of the season," Hamilton told reporters.

"The important thing is that we have a car that we can really work with and the team have done a fantastic job to get us to this position.

"Now we'll look forward to Malaysia and hopefully build on this positive start with an improved performance."

Read: F1 revolution ahead after 'identikit' 2013 season

Hamilton's former team ended a miserable weekend with lead driver Jenson Button only managing a ninth place finish while new teammate Sergio Perez finished outside of the points in 11th.

"Having won the Australian Grand Prix three times so far in my career -- in 2009, 2010 and 2012 -- you'd have to say that today's ninth place isn't really much to write home about," Button told reporters.

"Having said that, I think we should be pretty satisfied with what we achieved in Melbourne today.

"It was a tricky race and our car isn't yet quick enough, so I think the team did a great job to achieve even as much as we did."

"Looking forward to Malaysia next weekend, I think we've got a tough few days ahead of us, but hopefully we can now do some number-crunching in an effort to understand our car a bit better and extract a bit more performance out of it there."

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