When the lights turned green, it was expected that pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, with his team-mate Mark Webber also at the front of the grid, would continue his dominance of the past three years.
But it was not to be. Despite an early lead, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso got the jump on the world champion, skipping ahead in the second pit stop as he pitted a lap earlier. Mark Webber, meanwhile, racing in front of his home crowd, fell almost immediately back to seventh on the grid.
But the day belonged to Räikkönen, who, using a two-stop strategy as opposed to the more popular three-stop option, was leading the race by the 23rd lap. He was in the top position for most of then on, with Vettel and Alonso battling it out for second.
After their third respective stops, Alonso had the clear lead and cruised on to finish the race in second, more than 12 seconds behind Räikkönen. Vettel had to settle for third, with his time ending more than 22 seconds behind the Finn.
In fourth place was Ferrari’s other driver Felipe Massa, who was followed by new Mercedes AMG driver Lewis Hamilton in fifth. Starting from third on the grid, Hamilton finished in fifth position after converting to a three-stop strategy mid-race. He was happy with the car and his new team’s performance, though he couldn’t make the tires last which is why he was forced to switch from an original two-stop strategy to a three-stop.
Unfortunately for Hamilton’s team-mate, Nico Rosberg, the German had to retire following an electrical problem midway through the race.
Mark Webber eventually finished sixth, followed by Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta in seventh and eighth positions respectively. Behind them were McLaren driver Jenson Button in ninth and Lotus’ other driver Romain Grosjean in tenth.
McLaren didn't show much pace this weekend, though the team is focused on turning that around. While Button made it into the top ten, his new team-mate Sergio Perez could only finish in 11th.
This is a very encouraging start to the 19 race season for Lotus, but also for other top teams such as Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and now possibly even Mercedes AMG. This should guarantee an exciting season ahead.
Teams now head to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend.
Leading the Drivers’ Championship points table is, of course, Räikkönen, who sits on 25 points. He is followed by Alonso on 18 points and Vettel on 15 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari leads with 30 points, followed by Lotus on 26 points and Red Bull Racing on 23 points.