Raikkonen on top in Malaysia

Raikkonen: Comprehensive win

Ferrari fight back as Hamilton battles to fifth place

World champion Kimi Raikkonen made up for his Melbourne disappointment by taking a comprehensive victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

Starting second on the grid, the Finn assumed control of the race following the first set of pit stops and eventually took the chequered flag some 20 seconds ahead of BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

However, there was disappointment for Ferrari in the Far East, with polesitter Felipe Massa spinning out of a surefire second place on lap 30.

Meanwhile, on top of the five-place grid penalty he received in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton endured a troubled race which was compromised by a problematic opening pit stop.

Nevertheless, he eventually finished fifth to preserve his championship lead, with McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen taking the final podium position ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli.

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld finished sixth, ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and Renault's Fernando Alonso.

Pre-season favourite Raikkonen could only finish eighth in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after encountering problems in both qualifying and the race.

With Massa also failing to finish last time out, Ferrari endured their worst start to a championship since 1993.


However, the sight of an all-red front row after a dominant qualifying session seemed ominous and so it proved - at least in part.

The forecast of rain failed to materialise but temperatures of 30-plus degrees celsius and 70 percent humidity were the order of the day as Massa held off the fast-starting Raikkonen into turn one.

Hamilton also made a fast start from ninth, rising to fifth by the third corner, taking advantage as Trulli and Heidfeld ran wide at the exit of turn one.

However, with Kubica third and Webber another making a quick start in fourth place, the McLaren initially made little headway.

Hamilton remained less than a second ahead of Trulli, with Kovalainen a further three seconds back in seventh and the slow-starting Heidfeld passing both David Coulthard and Alonso to take eighth.

Massa had built a 1.6-second lead over Raikkonen by lap seven, with that gap remaining more or less static - both Ferraris also pulling steadily away from the third-placed Kubica.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was 20 seconds behind the leaders by lap 14 but slowly making inroads on Webber, who pitted at the end of lap 16.

Race leader Massa pitted one lap later. Raikkonen promptly responded with a fastest lap and, making his own stop on lap 18, the Finn emerged just ahead of his team-mate.

But Hamilton's fast start was undone when he made his own first stop on lap 19 - problems changing his right front wheel leading to a prolonged stop and the McLaren emerging down in 11th place.

With Kubica and Kovalainen making their first stops - the latter now ahead of his team-mate - Raikkonen assumed the lead by lap 22 and built a four-second lead over Massa in the next four laps.


His lead increased significantly when Massa retired on lap 30, the Brazilian's erratic reputation sure to increase after he lost the rear of his car and spun into the gravel at turn eight.

Kubica thus rose to second - 22 seconds behind the leader - with Kovalainen third and Trulli fourth. Meanwhile, Hamilton climbed back to sixth, albeit once again looking at Webber's rear wing.

Raikkonen relentlessly set another fastest lap on lap 37 as he extended his lead over Kubica to 24.5 seconds before making his second stop one lap later.

Webber pitted from fifth on lap 39, releasing Hamilton who was by now 13 seconds behind the fourth-placed Trulli, who himself stopped on lap 40.

Raikkonen took over the lead once more when Kubica made his second stop on lap 42, with Hamilton pitting from fourth on lap 44 to rejoin ahead of both Heidfeld and Webber in sixth place.

Kovalainen dropped to third after making his own final stop, and with the top three spread out over 20-second intervals heading into the final nine laps, the question was whether Hamilton, now fifth, could overcome the 4.7-second deficit to Trulli.

The gap came down to 2.6 seconds with four laps remaining and the pair were nose-to-tail on the final lap.

However, Hamilton never mounted a serious challenge for the position, with the experienced Italian holding on to score a strong result for the Toyota team.

Coulthard eventually finished ninth ahead of Honda's Jenson Button, with Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson finishing one lap down in 15th place.

Hamilton now leads both Raikkonen and Heidfeld by three points in the drivers' championship, with McLaren holding a five-point lead over BMW Sauber in the constructors' standings.

Result of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang on Sunday:

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1:31:18.555
2. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber +00:19.570
3. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren 00:38.450
4. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 00:45.832
5. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 00:46.548
6. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) BMW Sauber 00:49.833
7. Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 01:08.130
8. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 01:10.041
9. David Coulthard (Britain) Red Bull 01:16.220
10. Jenson Button (Britain) Honda 01:26.214
11. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 01:32.202
12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Force India 1 lap
13. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 1 lap
14. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams 1 lap
15. Anthony Davidson (Britain) Super Aguri 1 lap
16. Takuma Sato (Japan) Super Aguri 2 laps
17. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams 2 laps
r. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso 17 laps
r. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 26 laps
r. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 51 laps
r. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 55 laps
r. Sebastien Bourdais (France) Toro Rosso 55 laps

(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)

Fastest Lap: Nick Heidfeld, 1:35.366, lap 55.