Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

A Good Day for Most Rookies

Sunday March 4th, 2001

Baby-faced Finn Kimi Raikkonen was elevated into the points following Sunday's Australian Grand Prix to become the first debutant to finish in the top six since Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa in 1999.

On a good day for rookies, Colombian Juan-Pablo Montoya and Spanish teenager Fernando Alonso also impressed. Of the four new boys in the race only Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi, who crashed out in his Arrows after just two laps, failed to shine.

Raikkonen, 21, who was declined entry to the circuit on Thursday because he did not have a pass and officials were sceptical that he was a driver, proved he had the talent and determination to succeed when he brought his Sauber home.

He was originally classified in seventh place, but was then elevated to sixth after Frenchman Olivier Panis was handed a 25 points penalty for overtaking German Nick Heidfeld, in the other Sauber, under yellow flags early in the 58-lap race.

Raikkonen said: "My only problem was some understeer initially on my second set of tyres, which prevented me from going after Heinz-Harald Frentzen. But gradually the balance returned and then I could push hard to the end. It's been a good day and a great start to my Formula One career."

Team chief Peter Sauber said: "Kimi was a miracle. He lapped at the same speed as Nick and Heinz-Harald for the last 15 laps."

In pre-season build-up, Sauber had been criticised for signing such an inexperienced driver as Raikkonen, who had only done 23 previous single seater car races in his career.

Montoya, the former CART champion, was in his first race for the Williams-BMW team and was running strongly before he was forced to retire after 40 laps. He suffered broken oil piping on his car.

Alonso, the youngest of the newcomers, delivered arguably the best performance of them all by finishing 12th for the Australian-purchased Minardi team.

"This nothing short of a miracle," said owner Paul Stoddart. "Fernando not only showed today what he is capable of, but also proved that the Gustav Brunner-designed chassis will need to be taken seriously this year."

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