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Raikkonen wins Formula One opener in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia — Kimi Raikkonen won the Formula One opener Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix, jumpstarting Lotus' bid to challenge the series' bigger teams for the 2013 championship.

Raikkonen took the lead for good on Lap 43 of 58 and drove conservatively late as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel scrambled in vain to keep up.

The Finn made two pit stops, compared to three for each of the six men who followed him, to become the 15th driver in F1 history to record 20 wins.

"We followed the plan and it worked out perfectly for us," he said. "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, who finished second, 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 its poor starts the past two seasons.

"I am extremely happy," Alonso said. "…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.

Mark Webber of Red Bull, who qualified second, got another bad start — he was seventh after Lap 1 — and finished sixth, failing for the 12th time to reach the podium in his home race.

East Bay Raceway: Josh Peacock won the 25-lap Late Model feature late Saturday in Gibsonton.

Raikkonen wins Formula One opener in Australia 03/17/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 8:17pm]
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