Raikkonen takes first career victory and McLaren is soaring

Two races. Two wins for McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen's first career Formula One victory. McLaren is flying high while Michael Schumacher struggles.

Two races. Two wins for McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen's first career Formula One victory. McLaren is flying high while Michael Schumacher struggles.

Kimi Raikkonen, the Malaysian Grand Prix winner, is flanked by Rubens Barrichello (left) and Fernando Alonso on the podium. Barrichello finished second, followed by Alonso, the youngest driver in F-1 racing. -- Pic. AP-

Raikkonen won the Malaysian Grand Prix in another race in which five-time world champion Michael Schumacher failed to finish in the top three ... again.

"It's difficult to say how I feel now — it's tomorrow morning when I will know what it feels like to win my first Grand Prix,'' Raikkonen said.

"We have had many podium finishes in the past, this year the podium wins are not so far, they will come,'' Schumacher said.

"Let's hope the next race will be better,'' he added.

At least second place went to Rubens Barrichello, putting Ferrari back on the podium after a race's absence. He was 39 seconds behind at the finish.

Third was Fernando Alonso of Renault, who had the pole position. He was the youngest to start from the inside in Formula One history at 21 and now has a third in his 19th Formula One race.

Ralf Schumacher of Williams-BMW, who won last year's race, was fourth, and Jarno Trulli of Renault fifth. Michael Schumacher was sixth — more than a lap behind — after a fourth in Australia, the season's first race. He had a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with Trulli on the third turn of the race that caused Trulli, who started second, to spin and put Schumacher on the grass for a few seconds.

"It was not my day,'' said Schumacher. Schumacher's luck has failed him in the season's first two races. The last time he had such a bad spell in two consecutive races was in 2000, when he was bumped out of the German and Austrian races on the first lap. McLaren's last back-to-back victories were in the 2000 Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix races which Mika Hakkinen won.

Raikkonen replaced Hakkinen on the McLaren team in 2002.

"A driver's first GP win is his most significant and Kimi will be even better for it,'' said Ron Dennis, the McLaren team boss. Raikkonen's task was made easier by Schumacher's troubles. Schumacher tried to move inside of Trulli on a left-hand corner, but bumped into him and spun him around but not out of the race.

Schumacher was forced onto the grass and re-entered the race after dropping to about 12th.

"I am not very satisfied but that is racing ... I am human so I make mistakes,'' Schumacher said. Schumacher was penalised for causing an avoidable collision. He had a drive-through penalty at the end of the ninth lap which dropped him to 14th, 89 seconds behind first at the time.

"It was clearly my mistake and I have apologised to Jarno,'' he said.

After two races, Raikkonen leads the drivers' standings with 16 points following a win and a third in two races.

"I hope this is the start of a McLaren-Mercedes reign in F-1,'' he said. "We are leading in both championships and we are in good shape.'' At the Australian Grand Prix he was poised to take the lead but was penalised for speeding in the pit lane and had to take a drive-through penalty. He still finished third.

Raikkonen almost won the French Grand Prix last year but slid out of the lead with less than five laps to go, giving Michael Schumacher the victory and his fifth world title. Raikkonen finished sixth in the standings last year. Teammate David Coulthard, who won the opening race at Australia, lasted less than three laps because of electrical problems.

Still, Coulthard has 10 points for the season and is in second place in the standings, the first time McLaren is 1-2 in the drivers' standings in a long, long time.

"We look forward to the remainder of the season but we are under no illusions about the competitiveness of our principal rivals,'' Dennis said.

New rules for car technology and qualifying were introduced this season in an effort to increase competition after Ferrari dominated last season and television ratings dropped.

"The new rules are proving positive. They mix up the field so much that a lot goes on in the race,'' Ralf Schumacher said.

In the opening race of the season, Ferrari missed the podium for the first time in 53 races, although it was a series of mishaps rather than the new rules that contributed to the result.

Alonso held on to the lead for the first laps until he pitted at the end of 13 laps.

That put Raikkonen, who started seventh on the grid, in the lead. Although he lost the lead when he pitted at the end of the 19th lap, he regained it at end of the 23rd when Barrichello pitted, and essentially held it for the rest of the 56 laps. Barrichello came in second, while Alonso was third.

"After the second stop I could tell that Kimi was managing to pull away a bit,'' Barrichello said. "I kept pushing until, with 15 laps to go, my team told me to hold position.'' With Alonso third and Trulli fifth, Renault was happy.

"We proved we are competitive again,'' Alonso said. "We proved our reliability.'' Ferrari won the first three years here before Ralf Schumacher broke the streak with his victory last year. That and the Monaco Grand Prix, which was won by Coulthard a month later, were the only races Ferrari lost last year.

There was heightened security while the U.S.-led forces continued their attack on Iraq.

The Minardi cars raced with a "Malaysia for Peace'' logo, and a coalition of government-backed rights groups put up banners at the entrance of the track saying "Stop War on Iraq'' and "Say No to Bush'' which were later removed on police instructions.

Malaysian Grand Prix, over the 5.543-kilometre (3.45-mile), Sepang International: 1. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, McLaren-Mercedes, 1 hour, 32 minutes, 22.195 seconds, 56 laps, average speed 201.629 kph (125.313 mph); 2. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 1:33:01.481, 56 laps, 39.2 seconds behind; 3. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 1:33:26.202, 56 laps, 64.007 seconds; 4. Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams-BMW, 1:33:50.221, 56 laps, 88.026 seconds; 5. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Renault, 1:32:25.290, 55 laps; 6. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 1:32:28.475, 55 laps; 7. Jenson Button, Britain, BAR-Honda, 1:35.48.098, 55 laps; 8. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 1:32:54.294, 55 laps; 9. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Sauber-Petronas, 1:33.50.405, 55 laps; 10. Ralph Firman, Ireland, Jordan-Ford, 1:33:51.715, 55 laps; 11. Christiano da Matta, Brazil, Toyota, 1:33:51.975, 55 laps; 12. Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, Williams-BMW, 1:32:39.485, 53 laps; 13. Jos Verstappen, Netherlands, Minardi, 1:32:58.886, 52 laps;

Fastest lap: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1 minute 36.412, lap 45.

Drivers' standings (after two races): 1. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, McLaren, 16 points, 2. David Coulthard, Britain, McLaren, 10, 3. Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, Williams, 8, 4. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 8, 5. Ferando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 8, 6. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 8, 7 Jarno Trulli, Italy, Renault, 8, 8. Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Williams, 6, 9. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Germany, Sauber, 3, 10. Jenson Button, Britain, BAR, 2, 11. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, Sauber, 1.

Constructors' standings: 1. McLaren 26 points, 2. Ferrari 16, 3. Renault 16, 4. Williams 14, 5. Sauber 4, 6. BAR 2.