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Raikkonen wins, Hamilton triple unlucky

Kimi Raikkonen Kimi Raikkonen won the Malaysian Grand Prix in a Ferrari revival following the problems of the opening race in Melbourne.

For Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, it was a return to the bad luck and avoidable mistakes that cost him the title at the end of last season.

Given a five place grid penalty for impeding Nick Heidfeld’s BMW in Qualifying, he was then the hapless victim of a pit-stop blunder by his team and ran out of water during the race.

In the end he finished fifth, probably the best he could hope for in the trying circumstances and the scorching heat of the race.

In the pits it was apparently a £1,000 titanium wheel nut that caused the problem. Hamilton found himself parked up for nearly 20 seconds during his first refuel, with his mechanics panicking over the front, right wheel.

When he finally got underway, he was in midfield and being held up by Mark Webber’s Red Bull. That was it until the next time.

“I didn’t have any water all race,” he said after confessing he could have done with a cold beer. “But the great thing is my fitness. Physically, I felt fine and was able to push all race. I feel better than last year.”

Felipe Massa started on pole and kept in front until the first round of pit stops. Then Raikkonen put in one super-fast lap to come out in front.

A Ferrari one-two looked assured, only for Massa to spin off on lap 31 when he clipped the kerb and lost control entering the next corner. Some commentators are wondering whether Massa can handle the car now that driver aids have been removed. Raikkonen proved he can, despite his poor performance in Melbourne which relegated him to eighth place.

“We’ve had a very complicated start to the season, but I have certainly not lost faith in the team. We can still do better,” said Raikkonen.

Hamilton still leads the Drivers’ Championship by three points. He said: “It was a difficult weekend. So so. Comme ci, comme ca. We can improve but I look forward to the next race still leading. We still got four points and that is key. I did the best job I could. At least the reliability of the car was great and we had good pace. We have to make sure we get the guns working next time and do a better job in qualifying. We can bounce back.”

He will be hoping that McLaren can recapture their mojo at Bahrain in two weeks.

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Lewis Hamilton fastest in practice

It’s beginning to look good for wunderkind racer Lewis Hamilton, McLaren’s star driver in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

After today’s practice session Hamilton was again top dog. Challengers were there none.

Given the pace of his car he must be favourite for taking pole on race day.

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A breeze in Melbourne for Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton got his Formula One world championship attempt off to a perfect start with an easy win in the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne.

Hamilton dominated from pole position, with only seven cars finishing the 58-lap race. He won 5.4 seconds ahead of BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld.

Nico Rosberg finished third for the Williams team.

It was a disastrous day for Ferrari with both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa failing to finish the race, which was marred by some spectacular crashes.

Hamilton told the McLaren team on his radio, “Fantastic job. The car was incredible. Thanks very much.”

The British McLaren driver made a clean start from pole position. First corner problems also saw Ferraris’ Felipe Massa head for the pits as he lost out in a battle for third with Heikki Kovalainen.

Four other cars, including Jenson Button’s Honda and Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri, were forced to retire.

But it was Hamilton’s day, and the season gets off to a familiar start — at least if last season’s opening races are anything to go by.

“It was a super race and I dominated it from the beginning,” Hamilton said later. “I was able to drive at a steady pace without feeling any pressure. The three safety car periods meant there was never a time to relax and the whole situation was a bit like Canada last year when I claimed my first victory. We constantly had to change our strategy and the strategists were on the ball throughout. The car was fantastic to drive and we must keep on pushing because Ferrari are a great team and will do a good job.”

The first three were :

1. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 58 laps one hour 34 minutes 50.616 seconds
2. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber +5.478 secs
3. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota +8.163

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McLaren suffers £2.3m loss

Following its disastrous Formula One season last year, in which it was fined a staggering £50m for allegedly possessing technical secrets belonging to Ferrari, McLaren has now posted a loss of £2.3m for 2006. This is down from £14.3m profit the year bafore.

The McLaren Group is is part-owned by Mercedes, with a 40pc stake, and Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, with £30pc. Ron Dennis owns part of the rest with the Saudi-run TAG Group.

The Group was hit on all fronts. Sales of its £300,000 flagship car, the SLR, produced with Mercedes, fell from 649 in 2005 to 261 in 2006.

The ban on tobacco advertising in F1 reduced its turnover to £206.6m, and Lewis Hamilton’s failure to secure the world title meant further losses. Without the rookie’s efforts though, Fernando Alonso may well have won the title for the team.

Even a great performance by Lewis counted against them in 2007. Truly the stars were not on their side. They will be praying for better fortune this year.

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