Raikkonen triumphs, Vettel clings to championship lead
Raikkonen triumphs, Vettel clings to championship lead
Raikkonen, the 2007 champion who returned to Formula One this season after a two-year absence, grabbed his triumph after early leader Lewis Hamilton was forced into retirement after 20 laps by a power failure on his McLaren car.
The Finn won convincingly ahead of Fernando Alonso of Ferrari who pushed hard for victory in the closing laps of an extraordinary contest that included two prolonged safety car periods and a rash of major accidents.
Defending champion and current leader Vettel started from the pit lane in his Red Bull car and produced one of the greatest drives of his career to finish third.
Vettel's phenomenal drive, including clocking fastest lap, kept him 10 points ahead of Alonso in the title race with two races remaining.
Vettel leads on 255 points with Alonso on 245 and Raikkonen on 198.
This was Raikkonen's first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and his 19th career win. He is the eighth different victor of the season and gave the Lotus name a victory for the first time since Ayrton Senna won for the original Lotus team in the United States in 1987.
The 33-year-old was his usual calm place after the race and betrayed few emotions.
Asked how he felt, he said: "Last time you guys were giving me grief because I didn't smile enough, but I'm happy for the team. It's been a hard season and not easy times lately.
"Hopefully this will give everyone belief and turn the tables so we can win more races, if not this year then next year."
His Lotus team chief Eric Boullier said: "This is just a great one. It's a final reward for the team. We've deserved this for a long time. We had a little bit of luck. Kimi is good for everyone at Enstone and good for the the fans in F1.
"I am proud of this and we did well."
Alonso, who cut Vettel's lead from 13 points to 10, said: "I'm very happy as I think we were not super competitive this weekend. We had to fight throughout the race, but we had a very good strategy and wanted victory.
"But we think it was a perfect Sunday as we kept fighting right until the end."
Vettel's performance justified his confidence in claiming before the race that he could deliver a strong points finish despite starting at the back of the field.
"I told you guys, don't stop believing," he said over the team radio. "Never lift!"
Hamilton, who had reigned supreme throughout the weekend, was left to reflect on more ill luck in his bid to give McLaren a result to savour before his move to Mercedes next season.
He said: "I hadn't been faultless in this race because I did have a very wide moment at one stage, but after that it was going really well and the car was a dream to drive.
"I was cruising and pulling away so it was a shame the engine just died. It was some kind of fuel problem, but it was an incredible race, good to watch.
"We hadn't brought any upgrades and hopefully we'll have some for the next race. I hope the car performs over the next two races to finish up the front for the last time. I'm happy with the job I did, I couldn't have done any more."
Vettel's biggest previous improvement from the grid was 14 places from 19th to fifth at the 2008 Monaco GP.
Red Bull were unable to confirm their third straight constructors championship, but with a lead of 82 points ahead of Ferrari, look certain to do that at the United States Grand Prix at Austin next month.
Saudi Arabia step up their World Cup preparations by flying to Switzerland for training camp
- Squad of 28 to be based in Zurich
- Friendlies on the horizon against Italy and Peru
Juan Antonio Pizzi has taken a 28-man squad to Zurich for the final stage of the Green Falcons’ World Cup preparations.
The party flew out of Jeddah late last night and landed in Switzerland early this morning. There they will be joined by Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari who will fly in from Spain after playing for Levante and Villarreal on Saturday night.
The three-week training camp in the Swiss resort town of Bad Ragaz gives Pizzi the chance to get stuck into some intense tactical and physical work with his players and decide which five players to leave out of his squad. He must whittle down his list down to 23 by June 4, which gives the players get two final chances to stake their claim for a seat on the plane in friendlies against Italy on May 28 and Peru on June 3. By the time they play Germany in Leverkusen on June 8, Pizzi will have named his party for the assignment in Russia.
Pizzi is clearly much nearer knowing who he will take as he has only made minor changes to the squad he named for the recent wins against Greece and Algeria.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Assaf Al-Qarni replaces his club teammate Fawaz Al-Qarni as the fourth stopper in the squad, as Pizzi looks settled on retaining Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais in addition to Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. One of those four will fail to make the cut as no team takes four goalkeepers to the World Cup.
There were no changes in the backline where the former Chile boss is opting for harmony. Eight of the nine defenders called up ply their trade at Al-Hilal or Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr’s Omar Hawsawi rounds off the selection. One defender might have to make way and Al-Hilal teammates Mohammad Jahfali and Ali Al-Bulayhi could well find themselves vying for one spot on the plane to Moscow.
Abdullah Otayf and Taisir Al-Jassim look to be firm favorites to make the starting XI in the base of midfield, while the third central spot is up for grabs. Hussein Al-Moqahwi has regularly featured in that position, but Salman Al-Faraj’s return from a long injury saw him start both friendlies in the Spain training camp. Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari could emerge as the more conservative midfield enforcer against stronger sides.
The center of the pitch is where the most intense battle of positions will take place. As many as three midfielders could be left behind come June 4. Ibrahim Ghaleb has already been left out and he may be joined by Al-Shabab duo Hattan Bahebri and Abdulla Al-Khaibari. One of Mohammad Kanno and Mohammed Al Kuwaikbi could be the last man to be dropped in two weeks’ time.
Up front, Harun Kamara, a surprise call-up for the recent friendlies, failed to retain his spot in the squad so Mohannad Assiri and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi will battle it out for the sole striker position.
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Assaf Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)
Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr).
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdulla Otayf, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abid (Al-Hilal); Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ettifaq); Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal); Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante); Yahya Al-Shehri (Leganes)
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli)