Raikonnen in pole position in Melbourne

Kimi Raikkonen took pole position on Saturday for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, the season’s Formula One opener. It was Raikkonen’s 12th career pole, but his first in a Ferrari.

Formerly of McLaren, the Finn joined Ferrari to replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who retired after finishing second on the drivers’ standings last year.

Raikkonen completed the 5,303km Albert Park circuit in a time of one minute, 26,972 seconds.

World champion Fernando Alonso—sporting the number one on his car once again, but with his new McLaren—was second in 1:26,493.

“We found a good set-up for the car, but it wasn’t a good result for the team,” said Raikkonen. “Felipe Massa broke down.
We are more confident for the race than for qualifying.”

Massa, Raikkonen’s Ferrari teammate, was 16th after failing to finish in the second session.

Alonso won last year’s race here in a Renault when Melbourne was the third race of the season.

Nick Heidfeld in a BMW-Sauber was third in 1:26,556, while McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton was fourth in 1:26,755.

Hamilton and Alonso are looking to earn McLaren their first victory since the Japan Grand Prix in October 2005.

Alonso said qualifying day had been difficult for everybody. “Qualifying is always difficult. First qualifying is stressful because you have to get used to the system,” he said.

Massa had the pole position and victory at the previous race in Brazil and led testing in the final trials at Bahrain in February.

The Brazilian would like to forget last year’s race here—he lasted less than two turns before crashing into a wall.

Jenson Button, who had the pole last year in a Honda in 1:25,229, failed to make it into the final session for a run for this year’s pole. He was just 14th in 1:27,264.

The Melbourne track, wet on Friday morning, was dry with cool temperatures in bright sun. Fine weather is forecast for Sunday’s race.—Sapa-AP

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