Melbourne: Sahara Force India got off to their best ever start to the 2013 Formula One season on Sunday when comeback man Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in an exciting Australian Grand Prix here at Albert Park.
Kimi Raikkonen jumped six places on the grid to win the 58-lap race in his Lotus, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who started in pole position for Red Bull Racing.
Most of the drivers were on a three-stop strategy while Raikkonen and Force India drivers reaped the benefits of pitting twice. Sutil moved up five places on the grid to bag six points while di Resta, who was ninth fastest in the qualifying earlier Sunday, gained a position in the race to collect four points.
The German impressed in his first race in more than 12 months and was leading the pack for 11 laps, largely because he pitted one time less than the frontrunners. He was running fifth towards the end of the race before being overtaken by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
"What a fantastic race and a great feeling," said Sutil.
"I started on the medium tyres, a different strategy to most of the cars ahead of me, and I think this was the right decision. The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me.
"It was not long until I was leading the race - my first time leading in Formula One. After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again.
"My final stint on the super-softs was much more difficult because the tyres started graining and I lost a few places. I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tyres came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place," Sutil added.
With the good result here, Force India now head to Malaysia as a more confident unit. The Silverstone-based team managed only a point in the 2012 Australia round where di Resta came tenth. The Sutil and Di Resta combination came ninth and 10th in 2011.