Raikkonen wins Malaysian Grand Prix, Force India 12th

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/k/kimiraikkonen1.jpg' class='caption'> Defending world drivers' champion Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari won the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit on Sunday.

Updated: March 26, 2008 15:57 IST
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Defending drivers world champion Kimi Raikkonen finally kicked off the defence of his crown on Sunday when, a week after a dreadful day at Melbourne, he won the Malaysian Grand Prix for Ferrari.

But the Italian team's hopes of a dream one-two finish just a week after their embarrassment in Australia where both cars failed to complete the race were wrecked by Brazilian Felipe Massa spinning off while running second.

The Latin American's error gave Pole Robert Kubica in his BMW a perfect opportunity to grab his career-best finish in second and he did so with a calm and solid performance to come ahead of steadily-improving Finn Heikki Kovalainen for McLaren Mercedes-Benz.

Kovalainen's McLaren team-mate Briton Lewis Hamilton, who won in Australia, battled through a topsy-turvy race and various problems with pit-stops and tactics, to finish fifth behind Italian Jarno Trulli in a Toyota.

His efforts kept him on top of the drivers' championship after two rounds.

Both McLaren men were forced to start five places back on the grid from their original qualifying places after being charged with blocking other cars inadvertently at the end of Saturday's qualifying session.

Raikkonen's win was the 16th of his career and proved he is carrying no "negative baggage" after his dismal outing at Albert Park where he spun twice, but still managed to collect a point for being classified eighth.

It was also Raikkonen's seventh win for Ferrari and his second win in Malaysia.

"That was good, it was what we wanted," said the Finn. "I got a good start and I stayed behind Felipe until the pit stops hoping I could pass him there and that is how it worked out.

"The conditions were not too bad. It was hotter in Australia, but here it is more humid. For me, though it was ok. It is always nice to be at the front - everything seems easier when you are there."

His win increased his total of points for the season to 11 after two races. This cut Hamilton's lead at the top to just three points, the Englishman collecting four points.

Kubica said: "That was a long time coming for me and I am happy for myself and for the team. It is just great for everyone."

Kovalainen said: "After the penalties and everything that happened, we have to be happy with the podium finish. I just tried to do my best."

German Nick Heidfeld finished sixth behind Hamilton in the second BMW after being caught up in a dramatic sequence of events at turn one on the opening lap.

Australian Mark Webber made up for his bad luck in his home race in Australia last Sunday by finishing seventh ahead of double champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso was eighth for Renault.

Two Britons David Coulthard and Jenson Button finished ninth and 10th for Red Bull and Honda on a day when, in contast to last weekend's contest of attrition that saw only seven finishers, 17 cars reached the conclusion.

Massa made a fine start and survived a first-corner challenge from his team-mate before pulling clear at the front, with Raikkonen following close behind on a sensational first lap.

This saw Hamilton make a flying start and demonstrate just why he is regarded as the most exciting driver in Formula One.

From ninth on the grid, he weaved through the field to take fifth place at the end of the first lap.

As they crossed the line, the two Ferraris led, ahead of Kubica, Webber and Hamilton with Trulli sixth, Kovalainen seventh and Coulthard eighth.

But behind the leaders, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais spun off at turn six and German Timo Glock was forced to retire his

Toyota after a collision with compatriot Nico Rosberg, of Williams, who was forced to pit for a new front wing.

Bourdais said: "I was outside and running wide and I just lost it there. I get that is just part of the learning experience."

Glock said: "He got very close and hit me and broke my suspension and that was it for me."

The luckless Glock also crashed out of the Australian race.

The loser in the opening lap scrapping, that saw Hamilton weave between Kovalainen and Trulli on his way through, was German Nick Heidfeld, in his BMW. He fell back to 10th place and did not rise to eighth until lap four.

German Adrian Sutil in his Force India went out on lap seven as the field settled down until the first round of pit stops, which produced more drama.

Massa was the second man in and after a slow 'out' lap found himself running behind Raikkonen who put in a fast lap and stop to take the lead.

Kubica led briefly and remained third after the stops, but Webber, the first man to stop, and Hamilton, who had a problem with his front right wheel and was at a standstill for nearly 20 seconds, both dropped places in the pits.

When all the stops were done, Hamilton was running seventh behind Webber with Raikkonen leading, Massa second and Kubica third. Kovalainen was fourth, Trulli fifth and Webber sixth.

Ferrari's dream of a one-two finish was wrecked on lap 31 when Massa spun off at turn seven into the gravel trap. It looked like driver error and it meant that after two races the Brazilian was still pointless. This lifted Hamilton to sixth.

"I don't know what happened, I just lost control of the car. It was very strange at the rear," said Massa. The team said their telemetry readings showed there was nothing wrong with the car.

Following Massa's mistake, Raikkonen led comfortably by 24.5 seconds ahead of Kubica, Kovalainen and Trulli with Webber fifth and Hamilton sixth.

It was clearly the Finn's race to win or lose and he pitted for the second time at the end of lap 38 in just 8.5 seconds.

Raikkonen rejoined in second behind Kubica, who still had to make a second stop, with Kovalainen third.

His McLaren team-mate Hamilton remained held up behind Webber where though he had the speed to get close, he could not easily pass him.

It looked as if Hamilton was suffering from continuing difficulties with his right-front wheel where the 'spinner', a kind of aerodynamic hubcap, seemed to be loose.

Webber eventually pitted again after 39 laps allowing Hamilton through to fifth, with a stop remaining. Trulli soon followed, leaving Hamilton running fourth and pushing to make up time.

Kubica was able to hang on in the lead with a 6.2 seconds advantage ahead of Raikkonen until lap 42 when he pitted and the Finn took command again.

That left the flying Finn out in front to pull clear and win with Kubica second and Kovalainen third. Hamilton chased Trulli hard but to no avail.

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