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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report


Raikkonen enjoys triumphant debut

March 18, 2007 21:30 IST

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen made a triumphant start to his Ferrari career with a pole-to-flag victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

The 27-year-old, stepping into the seat vacated by the retired Michael Schumacher at the Italian Formula One team, punched the air with his fists as he crossed the line 7.2 seconds ahead of McLaren's double world champion Fernando Alonso.

It was the 10th victory of Raikkonen's career and he made it look as easy as a Sunday stroll in Albert Park as he became the first driver to win on his Ferrari debut since Briton Nigel Mansell in Brazil in 1989.

"We didn't need to really push as hard as we could have," he told reporters. "My biggest problem was the radio, it stopped working just before the start."

McLaren's 22-year-old rookie Lewis Hamilton completed a stunning weekend for the youngest man on the grid by overtaking Alonso at the start and leading his first Grand Prix for four laps before finishing third.

He became the 55th driver to score points in his first Formula One race and the first to step on to the podium on his debut since Canada's 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve finished second in Melbourne in 1996.

HAMILTON ECSTATIC

"I was ecstatic. I still am," said the Briton, Formula One's first black driver.

"To lead in my first Grand Prix was a fantastic feeling. It's pretty tough when you have a two-times world champion behind you."

Alonso, champion for the past two seasons with Renault, said he was happy with his McLaren debut.

"Obviously it's always better to win but today it was not possible," he said.

"I think we can be pleased as well. The Ferrari was a little bit too quick for us this weekend."

Germany's Nick Heidfeld finished fourth for BMW Sauber, ahead of Italian Giancarlo Fisichella for champions Renault and Brazilian Felipe Massa in sixth place for Ferrari after an engine change forced him to start at the back of the grid.

Nico Rosberg put Williams in the points with seventh place, ahead of their engine suppliers Toyota whose fellow-German Ralf Schumacher took the last point in eighth place.

Sunday's race was the first season-opener since 1991 without Ralf's older brother Michael, the seven-times world champion, on the starting grid but Raikkonen made sure that the new era opened with a red Ferrari at the front once more.

The Finn lapped all but the top six drivers as he cruised to his first win since 2005.

"It's a long time since I heard the Finnish anthem," he said. "The Italian one I have heard quite often."

Team boss Jean Todt handed him a mobile as he stood on the podium.

"I think it was Michael, but the line was pretty bad so I couldn't hear," said Raikkonen with a hint of a smile.

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