Formula One: Raikkonen wins season-opening Australian Grand Prix

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Kimi Raikkonen drove a brilliant race to win the Australian Grand Prix for Lotus on Sunday as the new Formula One season opened with an absolute thriller at Albert Park.

Finland's 2007 world champion rode to victory on a two-stop strategy and crossed the line 12.4 seconds clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with triple world champion Sebastian Vettel rounding out the podium in third place for Red Bull.

Seven cars led the race at one stage or another but after Raikkonen hit the front for the second time on lap 43, it looked like only a mechanical problem would stop him from winning his 20th grand prix to match compatriot Mika Hakkinen's career tally.

"I knew I had a good car so I was confident we could have a good race," said Raikkonen, the former McLaren and Ferrari driver who made his comeback last season after two years in rallying, on a podium of champions.