In a race which saw five different leaders, Kimi Raikkonen managed a two-stop strategy to perfection to come out on top and secure his 20th career victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Fernando Alonso was the best of the three-stoppers, maximising his strategy to take second while Sebastian Vettel could not match his qualifying pace but dug deep to rescue what could prove a crucial third place.
Felipe Massa is back with a bang, outqalifying team mate Alonso and challenging for a podium, while Lewis Hamilton failed to make a two-stop strategy work, but battled hard to secure a strong fifth place on his Mercedes debut – well clear of his former team McLaren.
And what about Adrian Sutil? He came back from a year on the sidelines and rose from 12th place to lead the race before dropping to seventh as he struggled to maintain his pace on the super-soft tyres – but who was your Driver of the Day?
Set himself up for victory with a brilliant long second stint on the medium tyres. Made an electric start from seventh, passing a number of cars, including the Mercedes of Hamilton, to run fourth after two laps. Kept pace with the leading trio, while conserving his tyres. A long second stint on the medium tyre provided the foundation for victory as it allowed him to make a two-stop strategy work – the only one of the top six who was able to do so. Inherited the lead and then pulled away, resisting a challenge from Fernando Alonso and even setting the fastest lap of the race at the end to show he had more life left in his tyres. Secured his 20th career victory and second for Lotus after his triumph in Abu Dhabi last season to lead the drivers’ world championship.
Used the under-cut at the second stop to pass three cars for second place. Made a good start from fifth, taking advantage of a slow starting Mark Webber and passing Hamilton to run third. Passed team-mate Massa on lap one, but was repassed before the end of the lap. Used the under-cut to pass Massa, Sutil and Vettel before putting the hammer down in a bid to catch Raikkonen. Initially started to catch the Finn, but faded in the closing stages and almost collided with a Caterham while trying to lap the backmarker. Eased off the pace to finish second for a solid start to his campaign.
Produced another faultless performance in qualifying but couldn’t replicate that form in the race. Made a clean getaway from pole position, but couldn’t pull away from the rest of the field as he has so often done. Hauled back in by the Ferraris, but lost out to Alonso and Sutil at the stops. Spent several laps behind Sutil before finally passing the German for third but didn’t have the pace to catch Alonso or Raikkonen and settled for damage limitation and third place.
Outqualified Ferrari team-mate Alonso and though the Brazilian lost out to the Spaniard in the race, he still finished a strong fourth. Made a great start to run second after the first lap and showed good pace to keep up and then close on leader Vettel. Kept his team-mate behind him for the first two stints but lost out to Alonso when the Spaniard gambled on coming in earlier on his third stop and successfully achieved the undercut. Overall showed good pace throughout the race and finished a solid fourth.
Declared himself happy with fifth place on his Mercedes debut despite failing to make a two-strategy work. Lost out to both Ferraris at the start and then tried to conserve his tyres in the opening two stints. Heavily locked his front right tyre when trying to defend against Alonso which forced an early second stop. As a result, he was unable to complete the final 27 laps on that set of tyres, forcing him to pit for a third time before crossing the line in fifth.
Led the race on two occasions but finished seventh as he struggled in his final stint. Started12th on the medium tyres and showed good pace the first stint while looking after his tyres. That allowed him to go deep into the race and take the lead while his rivals pitted early. Another good middle stint allowed him to retake the lead, but pushed too hard after his second and final stop on the super-soft tyres and went backwards, eventually finishing seventh. Nonetheless, it was an impressive performance in his first race back after a year out.
So who was your Driver of the Day? Leave a comment at the bottom of this story.