Kimi Raikkonen’s early pit stop in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix that partially undermined the Finn’s race was not part of Alfa Romeo’s game plan.
Raikkonen held his own in ninth position in the openings stages of the race, but soaring rear brake temperatures forced him into the pits after 11 laps for a tyre change and a fix to the overheating issue.
Alfa Romeo’s mid-field rivals were thrown off by the premature move, believing it was strategic, with several teams taking their cue from the Swiss squad.
“We had an issue with the temperature of the rear brakes as one of the tear-offs from the visor went in and that’s why we had to pit earlier than planned,” explained Raikkonen who was otherwise satisfied with the speed of his C38.
“Our car was pretty strong in the race, but then we got stuck behind cars and there is not much you can do.
“It seems that it is easier to get closer to the car in front of you but it’s still very hard to overtake.”
Raikkonen’s efforts yielded P8 and four points, a result that also contented Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur.
“For the first race of the season, it was an okay race,” said the Frenchman.
“We had some small issues which we could not have anticipated and both drivers put up a good fight.”
Raikkonen’s team mate Antonio Giovinazzi was less impressed with his return to the F1 fray, having battled from the outset with a car that had been damaged on lap 1 by debris from Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault and a contact with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
“It was not a positive race,” said a downbeat Giovinazzi.
“I had damage on the front wing from lap one, we did a touch I think with a McLaren. After that it was just a difficult race, especially on the first stint with the first tyres.
“Then on the pitstop we tried to repair the front wing a little bit to not lose too much time.
“In the end I think the pace was better, but the car just had a lot of damage.
“We need to focus on the next rounds.”
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