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The Iceman cometh

Masterful tyre management in a surprisingly quick Lotus put the colourful Finn top of the podium in Melbourne, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso second and Sebastian Vettel, gunning for his fourth straight world title, third.

“Finntastic” trumpeted Australian press, and “Finn puts party back into Formula 1”, as media welcomed a challenge to the accepted order at the start of the new season.

Three championships in three years have already placed Red Bull’s German pilot Vettel, 25, among the sport’s greats, but the return of the party-loving Raikkonen – who owns a luxury seafront home at Serenity Terraces in Phuket’s Rawai area – has proved invigorating.

And after rain storms wiped out Saturday qualifying in Australia, teams will be braced for another tough weekend at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit, where tropical downpours played havoc last year and in 2009.

A year ago, Raikkonen marked his return to Malaysia after a two-year stint in rallying by handing out ice-creams, a nod to an episode on his previous visit in 2009, when he coolly snacked on a Magnum during a rain delay.

The 33-year-old has twice been a winner on the long straights and tight hairpins of the Sepang circuit, built on former palm plantations near the Malaysian capital, but has also failed to finish four times and was fifth last year.

His ability to maintain Pirelli’s new, deliberately fast-wearing tyres was critical in Melbourne, but he will face an entirely different test in Malaysia’s heat, humidity and possible rain come race day Sunday.

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