Kimi Raikkonen lived up to his Ice Man reputation in the Malaysian Grand Prix, keeping cool and calm in the heat to take his maiden victory in fine style. The young Finn never put a foot wrong, leading the race the majority of the time and almost reducing McLaren boss Ron Dennis to tears as he took the chequered flag.
The front row Renaults got away well but a rare mistake by third placed Michael Schumacher saw him hit Jarno Trulli from behind at the second corner. More confusion as a concertina effect rippled down the field; Trulli spun while the Jaguar of Antonio Pizzonia rear-ended Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams. Minardi's Jos Verstappen also sustained damage.
David Coulthard managed to avoid the snarl up but promptly pulled off with an electronic problem only a couple of laps later. Michael pitted for a new nose cone, Pizzonia and Montoya for new wings and at the front Raikkonen was up to second behind pole man Fernando Alonso. Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was third, Rubens Barrichello up to fourth and Olivier Panis was storming through the field until an unknown problem saw him retire after his pit stop.
Ralf Schumacher benefited from the first lap chaos, in the top ten early on after qualifying seventeenth. Minardi was as high as seventh with Justin Wilson but the Englishman eventually retired with a trapped nerve in his shoulder. Michael got a drive-through penalty for the second corner incident which put him back down the field again.
Once the race settled down, the front runners juggled position. Alonso, Raikkonen and Barrichello all taking a turn in the lead while the pit stops swapped them around. Gearboxes proved to be a gremlin for a few: Button, Frentzen, Mark Webber and Trulli all appearing to have trouble locating gears in their stops.
Raikkonen, however, had an untroubled race, leading by over half a minute by the time he crossed the line. Barrichello also had a fairly anonymous time, holding on to second from Alonso. The Spaniard put in a remarkably calm and mature performance, finishing for his first podium in third despite having to switch to manually operating the gears and still suffering from a fever.
Trulli had an interesting race, spending much of it trying to get past first Ralph Firman, who got the Italian fist waved at him for his troubles, then arguing with former team mate Button. The pair tailgated for many laps until an over-enthusiastic Trulli spun at the last corner. He hastily picked it up, managing to hold his position but allowing Michael to close up.
Button lost out in the final laps, both Trulli and Michael getting past. Jaguar again had a disappointing race, Webber retiring to the pits with an oil feed gremlin and Pizzonia spinning off into the gravel with a brake problem. Michael managed to pit four times, including the drive-through, which must be some kind of record for him. Montoya, meanwhile, never recovered from his first stop for a new rear wing and finished twelfth.
A beaming Ron Dennis said of Raikkonen's victory: "His first win, I can't tell you how important that is for a Grand Prix driver, it's a weight off his shoulders. He deserves it, it was a faultless drive."
Faultless indeed, and the young guns of Raikkonen and Alonso a welcome sight on the podium. Ralf took advantage of it all to come home fourth, and Heidfeld managed the remaining point for Sauber. An interesting race and well deserved victory to Raikkonen. Final top eight clssification: Raikkonen, Barrichello, Alonso, R. Schumacher, Trulli, M. Schumacher, Button, Heidfeld.