Australian Grand Prix: Kimi Raikkonen bags race for Lotus F1, Sebastian Vettel bites dust

Grand Prix

Kimi Raikkonen cruised to victory at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday while Formula One's title favorites Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso labored behind him, announcing Lotus F1 team as a genuine championship contender in the season ahead.

Raikkonen took the lead for good on lap 43 of 58 in a race which had seven different leaders, and had the luxury of driving conservatively in the closing laps while Ferrari's Alonso and Red Bull's Vettel scrambled in vain to keep up.

The Finn needed only two pit stops compared to three stops for each of the six men who followed in his wake, and he became the 15th man in F1 history to record 20 grand prix wins.

"Our plan was to do two stops and though it's always difficult in the first races to know when to stop and not go too early, we got it exactly right,'' Raikkonen said.

"We followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us. I could save the tires and go fast if I needed. It was one of the easiest races I have done to win and hopefully we can have many more of these races.''

Alonso looked like a winning chance when he trailed Raikkonen by 6.2 seconds with 12 laps to go, but could not make up ground. Still he was satisfied with where Ferrari stands compared to the poor early races last season.

"I am extremely happy,'' Alonso said. "We had a difficult start of season two years ago and last year, too, and this year is very different. We feel much more comfortable, the car is responding well and we have a good season ahead of us.''

Pole sitter and three-time reigning world champion Vettel was third in a Red Bull. He was forced to pit after just seven laps due to worn super-soft tires and never threatened thereafter.

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