Raikkonen wins Australian GP

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/F/Ferrari_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Kimi Raikkonen won his first race with his new team Ferrari at Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Kimi Raikkonen showed he's the man to step into Michael Schumacher's shoes at Ferrari, winning his first race with his new team at Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Raikkonen has already beaten a Schumacher mark at the Italian team. The German had to wait until his seventh race to notch his first win with Ferrari. Raikkonen started from pole position, and led almost throughout the race on Sunday to notch his 10th F1 victory and edge world champion Fernando Alonso, who was making his McLaren debut. McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton, F1's first black driver, finished third. Raikkonen's Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa, finished sixth after starting the race from the back of the grid. Raikkonen ensured Ferrari maintained its momentum after leading winter testing. The Finn, who previously drove for McLaren, joined Ferrari to replace seven-time world champion Schumacher, who retired after finishing second on the drivers standings last year. His last victory was in Japan in October 2005. "It is special moment with a new team, everything is new, new to win in the first race ... to win straightaway, "Raikkonen said. "I am really happy with the team and the way things are going. It couldn't be any better than it is now." Raikkonen completed the 58 laps of the 3.295-mile Albert Park circuit 7.2 seconds ahead of Alonso, with rookie Hamilton 18.5 seconds back. Rookie sets record Hamilton became the first rookie to make the podium in his debut race since Canadian Jacques Villeneuve took second at the 1996 Australian GP. Hamilton was understandably pleased by his performance, which even saw him leading the race for four laps. "To lead into my first grand prix was a fantastic feeling," said a clearly elated Hamilton. "To be in my first grand prix, something I have been working for so many years. The hard work has just paid off. "I am just extremely happy for myself and the team," he added. "I was ecstatic ... I still am." Raikkonen's win was all the more impressive given the Finn drove without radio communication with his team throughout the race. "I lost my radio with the team just before the start. But we had a plan and knew what we wanted to do before the race," he said, adding that the team kept him up to date the pit boards as he came by the finish line. Alonso, who started second on the grid, came out of the first turn in fourth position. "Yes it was a strange start, not very good," said Alonso, who won here last year in a Renault. "I realized a little bit later I was fourth ... unfortunately." "Second place is a good place to start the season, we have to work a bit more," Alonso said. "We showed today good potential and we're looking forward to the next one." Hamilton and Alonso were looking to give McLaren its first victory since the Japan GP in October 2005. Fastest lap Raikkonen led Hamilton by 17.4 seconds at the halfway mark, before the Ferrari driver posted the fastest laps of the race to widen the gap. Alonso assumed second place after Hamilton went to the pits on the 43rd lap. "We were up and down all through the race and I was lucky to overtake him in the second pit start," Alonso said. Hamilton knew he couldn't hold off his more experience teammate. "It is tough when you have the two-time world champion behind you," he said. With 10 laps to go, Raikkonen had a 14-second lead over Alonso and coasted to the victory, slowing to salute his new team as he passed the line. Massa started at the back of the grid after changing his engine Sunday morning. He had gearbox problems Saturday in qualifying and was originally set to start from 16th spot. The next race is the Malaysian GP on April 8.

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