kimi2.jpgWhat a smashing race it turned out to be. Of course the enthusiasm comes largely from the fact that Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season for Ferrari in great style, dominating the race proceedings. After a very good start, he just sped away into the horizon never to be seen by the rest of the drivers till he came up from behind to lap them, bringing back memories of the 2004 season that Ferrari had. The only thing that went wrong for him and Ferrari today was the loss of radio contact before the race, but Kimi wasn’t too perturbed by that (if he does get perturbed by anything at all) as the plan was all in place. Well, it worked like clockwork. Luca Baldisserri seemed in total control of the strategy situation, and the pit crew were as efficient as ever. The only sore point of the weekend remains Felipe Massa’s gearbox problems, without which he would have been on the podium most probably. Felipe drove a decent race to finish sixth.

But all things should start at the beginning, and that includes race reports. So after Kimi shot off like a bullet, Alonso found himself hastily trying to defend his position against Nick Hiedfeld, only to be overtaken on the outside by Lewis Hamilton as well. And talking of Lewis Hamilton – what an amazing talent this young man is turning out to be! Hamilton seemed to be well in control against Alonso’s pace almost throughout the race, till when Alonso overtook him at the second set of pitstops – an incredible debut performance really. I seem to be getting the chronology all mixed up again, so where were we? Yes, the start…so Nick Heidfeld held on to second position in his BMW till his first (rather early) pit stop, leaving Hamilton in second place ahead of Alonso in third.

It was around this time that Jarno Trulli’s Toyota started spouting a bit of oil, though Trulli’s engineers (according to Peter Windsor) weren’t unduly worried by it – apparently nothing about the car surprises them anymore (“Did you notice the way the car jumped up into the air and started to tango?!!”, “Yeah (indifferently), that happens sometimes”). Christian Albers got bored with all the racing and brought it to a premature halt by going off the track into the barriers (The Spyker is going to kill someone before the season is through really, it still looks a lot like the Ferrari despite the orangish livery). As unbelievable as it sounds, Albers was apparently playing with his ear plugs and didn’t notice the corner coming up….honest! If I were running the Spyker team, I would kick him out and make sure he bounces twice. Felipe had made it to 14th by then and spent some time gazing at Honda’s ‘earth’ livery, stuck behind Button and Barrichello.

After the first round of pitstops, Kimi had a huge lead on Hamilton in second, Nando in third and Hiedfeld in 4th. Renault is reported to have practised their pitstops 90 times before the grand prix to eliminate the occassional wheel nut issue that has the driver accusing them of sabotaging their own championship campaign. Well, they did get it right but Fisi almost nullified the efforts by almost taking out Trulli coming out of pitlane. Hamilton was still ahead of Alonso after the first pitstop leaving Ron Dennis scratching his hair so to speak (whatever he has of it), considering all the lectures he has been giving regarding team orders.

Button compounded an already miserable outing by getting a drive through penalty for pitlane speeding (apparently the pitlane was the only place that the car speeded). Scott Speed retired after grassing it following a puncture, and Robert Kubica retired with gearbox problems. Kovalainen had a spin as Felipe sped past to get into points at eighth position. Raikkonen drove a bit like Schumi in more ways than one – not just speeding away and building up a sizeable lead, but also napping a bit after doing all the hard work. He had a small ‘off’, but after a hearstopping moment, straightened his car and was on his way like it never happened.

Alex Wurz and David Coulthard tried disobeying the basic law of physics and paid the price for trying to be in the same spacial and temporal position – in other words colliding with one another rather spectacularly, sending DC flying a bit bringing back memories of his Superman costume on the Monaco podium. Nando overtook Hamilton after his second pitstop and the order stayed the same till end of the race. Kimi crossed the finish line first, only for the radio to spring back to life and Chris Dyer’s voice to come floating in with the congratulatory messages from the team. Glad our team could get the radio restored in time for the finish. Alonso finished a strong second in his McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton also finishing on the podium in his debut race. Felipe finished in 6th position. A very positive outing for Ferrari overall. Now it’s back to counting days till the Malaysian grand prix…