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Raikkonen captures Malaysian Grand Prix

Mar 23, 2008 - 2:11 PM By Nick Briggs Special to PA SportsTicker

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Ticker) - Kimi Raikkonen banished the memory of last week's disastrous start to the season by claiming a comfortable victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Ferrari driver cruised home 19.5 seconds ahead of Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber with Heikki Kovalainen finishing third for McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth behind Jarno Trulli's Toyota after a bungled pit stop cost the Brit a chance of a podium, while pole-sitter Felipe Massa saw his race end after 30 laps when he beached his Ferrari in the gravel.

A Ferrari victory had looked odds-on before the race as chief rivals Kovalainen and Hamilton had both been hit by five-place grid penalties for impeding Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso at the end of Saturday's qualifying session, meaning they lined up eighth and ninth respectively.

And with the threat of rain failing to materialize, a clean start from both Ferrari drivers did little to change that assumption.

Massa managed to fend off Raikkonen through the first corner and set about consolidating his advantage, while Kubica climbed to third and Webber fourth as a poor getaway from Trulli saw him slip to sixth.

An excellent start from Hamilton saw the McLaren driver jump to fifth after the first lap but Timo Glock was unable to continue after his Toyota collided with Nico Rosberg's Williams, while Adrian Sutil's race also ended in retirement on lap six.

The Ferraris proved dominant in the early stages as Massa established a slight advantage over Raikkonen, the pair leaving Kubica trailing in the distance.

Hamilton was beginning to catch Webber and moved up to fourth when the Australian was the first of the front runners to come in at the end of lap 15, before Massa made his first stop a lap later.

The Brazilian rejoined behind Kovalainen leaving Raikkonen out in front and the Finn tried to make the most of a clear track before diving into the pits for a 7.9-second stop.

It was an excellent effort and saw him come out in fourth place, behind Kovalainen but crucially in front of his Ferrari teammate.

But disaster struck for Hamilton when he pitted from second as a problem with the right front wheel saw him stationary for 20 seconds and scuppered any hopes of a podium. He rejoined in 11th behind Webber.

Raikkonen continued to forge ahead once Kubica pitted from the lead and had established a five-second gap over Massa when his afternoon suddenly became considerably less stressful after the Brazilian spun at turn eight and ended up in the gravel, his race over after 30 laps.

That pushed Kubica up to second but 22 seconds behind the leader, while Kovalainen had crept up to third, a further 17 seconds adrift.

Hamilton was harassing Webber but could not find a way past the Red Bull while Heidfeld had also joined the scrap.

Raikkonen made his second stop of the afternoon at the end of lap 37 with a 24.5-second advantage over Kubica and a clean effort saw him rejoin in second place, around six seconds back.

Hamilton was still tussling with Webber for fifth but Heidfeld had begun to fall away before the Red Bull pitted and the Brit at last had a clear track in front of him.

It proved decisive as he made his second stop at the end of lap 44 and an 8.9-second effort allowed him to leapfrog the Australian.

But once Kubica had again handed the lead to Raikkonen after pitting for a second time, there was no stopping the Finn and he cruised to victory by 19.5 seconds

Kovalainen claimed his first McLaren podium in third, 38.4 seconds behind Raikkonen, after a relatively quiet afternoon and despite managing to chase down Trulli in the closing stages, Hamilton was unable to pass the Italian and had to settle for fifth.

Heidfeld crossed the line in sixth, Webber claimed seventh when his afternoon had promised more while Alonso picked up the final point for Renault in eighth.

David Coulthard finished ninth in the second Red Bull while Jenson Button rounded out the top 10. Anthony Davidson crossed the line down in 15th but will be encouraged by the fact his Super Aguri completed the race.

"The car has been good," said Raikkonen. "Felipe and I were similar in terms of speed but once he went in, the car got a little better and I was much quicker on my in-lap.

"After Felipe's incident, it was pretty easy."

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