Zeenews Sports Bureau
Here's a regular lap-wise update from the Australian GP, the first race of the 2013 Formula One season, and how it panned out.
Podium: The Finn national anthem plays as I write this standing up. Congratulations Kimi Raikkonen! And then comes on 'God Save the Queen' for Lotus' nation - England. Alonso, in second, is standing on the podium at the Australian GP for the first time since 2007! Vettel, meanwhile, celebrates the hardest, spewing champagne all over Kimi who's just keen on drinking his up.
Six world championships strewn among the three at the podium here, all former world champions. At position 1 on the podium is Kimi, who's won 1 world title. At 2, is Alonso, who's won 2. And on 3, is Vettel, who's won 3 titles, and is the defending champion. Strange play of numbers eh!
Race Over: Excellent strategy by Lotus as their two-stop planning gives Kimi Raikkonen the perfect start to the season. Alonso pushed him hard, but he just failed to match up. Vettel started really well, but the Red Bull's pace looks worrisome and the Ferraris and Lotuses seemed much faster.
Our hearts go out to Sutil, who had an amazing first race back, but the super softs just fell apart too swiftly. The two-stop strategy wasn't the best there. But Force India did look strong in parts as Sutil held the lead twice in the race! A few early, valuable points for them as well, as both cars finished among the points.
Chequered Flag: Raikkonen's Lotus is the first across the chequered flag. Alonso comes in 2nd, Vettel's third, Massa 4th, Hamilton 5th, Webber 6th. Sutil somehow drags his Force India with waht-used-to-be-wheels across the finsih line in 7th as his team mate Paul di Resta finishes 8th. Button's McLaren and Grosjean's Lotus finish off the points' positions.
CHEQUERED FLAG: KIMI RAIKKONEN WINS THE AUSTRALIAN GP!
Lap 57: It looks like the podium places are pretty much settled after Kimi has put in a stellar lap to extend his gap to 8s. Alonso had a bit of an issue trying to lap Pic as well, but no disaster there. So just a lap to go.
Lap 56: The status quo remains as we're 2 laps away. It's totally Kimi's race to lose now. Miles ahead and Alonso can't catch up now. Surely...
Lap 55: Di Resta is 2 seconds quicker than his team mate Sutil ahead of him and the gap is just 4 seconds with 3 laps to go. This could be so harsh on the comeback man.
Lap 54: Alonso is 6.1s behind Kimi and he's catching up. As for Sutil, his tyres are withering away like the leaves of non-evergreen trees in a fierce Swede winter. He's in 7th and Di Resta, Button and Grosjean aren't infinitely far away!
Lap 52: And Sutil is struggling on his super softs, as first Hamilton and then Webber overtake the Force India. But he's been an absolute star thus far.
Lap 50: With 8 laps to go, the order is: Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, Massa. Sutil and Hamilton, old friends who don't talk to each other any more, are pushing each other for 5th. Lewis may well get that spot.
Lap 49: Vettel, just 5s behind Alonso, may stand a better chance of gaining that position than Alonso beating Kimi, who is about 7.5s ahead, and pulling away.
Lap 47: Sutil finally comes in for his final pit stop, for his super soft tyres, and rejoins in fifth. It's turning out to be a great comeback race for him. Kimi, meanwhile, is really pushing on and is now about 7s ahead of Alonso in 2nd.
Lap 46: Alonso goes past Sutil pretty easily in the end, on turn 3, and the battle for the race win is on. Alonso versus Raikkonen to the finish.
Lap 45: Raikkonen in the lead now as he responds to Alonso's challenge. The Finn overtakes Sutil, who now battles with Alonso, who's all over the back of his Force India.
Lap 43: Webber up to 8th place, pushing past Force India's Di Resta. Great racing all over the grid. Quick stop by Hamilton and he's in 6th now. Meanwhile, Alonso takes a massive 1.5s off Kimi in that last lap. There's just 5.5s between the two. Sutil still leads, but will have to stop again for sure.
Lap 42: Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso is out. Alonso is trying to rush towards Kimi and is driving the wheels of that Ferrari.
Lap 41: ...and he joins back in 3rd. Sutil leads again. But he'll have to stop again to use his super softs as some point. Vettel, meanwhile, goes past Hamilton to move into fourth. Kimi is in 2nd. There is some light rain again.
Lap 40: Well Raikkonen has really caught up on Alonso now, doing his fastest lap of the race. Alonso still first, Sutil in second and Raikkonen in third. Webber, meanwhile, emerges from his final pit stop in 9th place. It's all up to him now as the rain looks likely to hold off for the remaining 18 laps. Alonso in to the pits as well...
Lap 38: Vettel goes in for his third and final pit stop and he'll come out behind Hamilton, in 5th. Button and Grosjean also head to the puts, from 8th and 9th.
Lap 35: Ice man Riakkonen goes in for the pits and comes out in medium tyres behind Massa, in 5th. It may just be a 2-stop strategy for him, with about 23 laps remaining now!
Lap 33: Kimi is yet to come in for his second pit stop and he may be well ahead, but 16 seconds, which is his lead over Alonso at the moment, isn't enough to get back out ahead of the rest. Vettel in third, 1.5s behind Alonso, and Sutil is hanging on to 4th as well, doing excellently. Massa in 5th, Di Resta, Hamilton, Webber, Button and Grosjean bring up the rest of the drivers in the points scoring positions.
Lap 32: Some exciting battle between Hamilton and Alonso sees Alonso nip and tuck and twist to cross his former team mate, who locks a bit too hard at the corner and then dives into the pits pretty quickly. Raikkonen in the lead then.
Lap 30: Alonso is catching Hamilton really quickly and is on his tail now.
Lap 28: Rosberg's promising race comes to an end now as he pulls to the side limply, away from the racing line. Looks like his Mercedes has just failed on him. That pushes Alonso up to third as some drops of drizzle begin their downward descent.
Lap 27: Massa did have some free space to run into while he was up front, but he's obviously not made that count as he comes back from his pit stop behind Sutil, in 7th. DRS has been disabled meanwhile and the yellow flags are out.
Lap 25: Raikkonen is in the lead now as Massa pits. Sutil's just produced the fastest lap of the race but that's only after Vettel also went past him. So Alonso and Vettel are battling for fourth. Maldonado, of Williams, has spun out, into the gravel, and his race is over.
Lap 22: An incredible series of leaves Massa at the front. Sutil and Vettel drop for pits, and the former emerges still ahead of him. But Alonso races past Sutil as soon as they come back on the circuit, making the Spaniard the big winner of that round of stops. So Alonso's jumped ahead of Sutil and, more importantly, Vettel. I wonder if Sutil has finally taken the super softs.
Lap 20: While an incredible Sutil, in his comeback race, is pulling away, Grosjean has brought his Lotus in for his second stop. Alonso has also come in for his second pit, which was done ever so expertly. Only 2.4s stationary for the double world champion.
Lap 19: Medium compound tyres on for Webber as he makes his second surprise pit stop already. He was getting bogged down behind Button so maybe it's a good strategy. Apparently all cars are on a three-stop strategy.
Lap 18: Sutil actually pulls away by 0.1s in this lap! He's the only one on the track not to have pitted yet. Meanwhile, Caterham's van der Garde has pitted twice already!
Lap 16: Massa is catching Vettel up again. There could be some interesting moments at the front as the top 5 are all close to each other. Raikkonen, in 5th, is just 2.9s behind Vettel. Sutil, by the way, is still leading! He could have a big part to play in the top four's fates!
Lap 14: Just a quick mention that Hulkenberg is the only one to have retired from the 58-lap race so far. Hamilton has just gotten back from his pitstop in 8th. By the way, Sutil, in his Force India, was leading for a short while, but he's yet to stop for the pits. Intriguingly, his latest lap matched Vettel's.
Lap 13: Hamilton, Rosberg and Sutil are top three at the moment, but it's all because they haven't yet stopped for the pits. He's struggling on his super soft tyres. The ones behind have already switched to their medium compound tyres so there's much better grip for them. Kimi is blazing the track at the moment, with the best times.
Lap 10: Leaders shuffling at the moment as Alonso and Raikkonen also take their stops. They both come back in the order they went in as Alonso is still behind Massa. Intriguing race here. And the delightful sound of Formula One cars is back. I can breathe again!
Lap 9: Massa rushes in to the pits now and, despite the quick pit work, he reaches back out behind Vettel, who's absolutely flown in his out lap.
Lap 7: Vettel's taken a quick pit stop and joins back in 11th, changing from his super soft typres which were beginning to cost him a lot of time. The Ferraris stay out while Raikkonen is really catching up fast. He's in 3rd after Vettel took his pit-stop.
Lap 6: Webber has also taken a short pitstop which is slightly surprising. Meanwhile, Vettel's Red Bull seems to be struggling already and Massa and Alonso are catching up quickly in their much faster Ferraris. Gap down to within a second between the front two.
Lap 5: It turns out Webber just had a miserably lame start, going down the middle as everyone just overtook him from both sides. Very sluggish. Meanwhile, Button has taken a very quick pit-stop to change his McLaren's tyres.
Lap 1: Vettel has started strongly and already opened up a 2 second lead at the top. Webber's locked and stuttered and dropped to 7th within the first lap. Massa has put himself in second, already a way behind. Raikkonen pushes Hamilton early on and after some last ditch defence from the Brit, Kimi's Lotus was just too quick, and he overtook from the outside, to climb into 4th. Alonso, by the way, is in 3rd.
The lights come on one by one and they all go off and the Australian GP and the Formula One season has started.
The Grid: After rain rudely interrupted Saturday`s qualifying after just one part of the three-part session, the rest of the proceedings were completed this morning, before the Australian GP`s flag-off time.
As the drivers get ready to line up for the practice lap, run a quick glance over what happened in this morning`s qualifying where Reb Bull dominated with a 1-2 and defending champion Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole.
The skies are cloudy (why ever do we say `skies` when surely there`s just one massive sky?) and it`s all rather grey and gloomy in Melbourne. There`s a good chance we`ll have some rain and things could get very interesting.
No Australian has ever won the Australian GP but Mark Webber`s on the front line of the grid and, even though his team-mate and champion Vettel is slightly in front, this may well be his chance to win it!
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal