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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 10:00 GMT
Win 'will improve Raikkonen'
Kimi Raikkonen on the podium after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix
Raikkonen was always assured
Kimi Raikkonen's driving will move onto another level following the maiden victory of his Grand Prix career, according to McLaren boss Ron Dennis.

The Finn's victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix confirmed Raikkonen as a star of the future.

He has already narrowly missed out on two other victories in the last eight months.

Dennis bought Raikkonen out of a contract with Sauber at the end of 2001 - his debut year in F1 - as a replacement for double world champion Mika Hakkinen.

McLaren's owner admitted to being close to tears at his protege's first win.

"It's his first win and I can't tell you how important that is for a Grand Prix driver, how much weight it takes from his shoulders. He will be even faster now," Dennis said.

"He is the Iceman. It's a great name which he strongly deserves.

"He was cool and calm after the race and that's a pleasure to see because he's able to focus in a pressured situation."

Raikkonen, who started the race from seventh on the grid, said: "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.

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"I feel that I have been a little bit unlucky not to win last year or win the last race. Nevertheless this came now and I'm very happy.

"I haven't been counting how many races I have done or how much everyone else has done before they have won their first race. I have just been trying to do my best and trying to win the race.

"Now it's come and it should be much easier now because people are not asking me all the time 'when are you going to win your first race?'

"I hope this is the start of a McLaren-Mercedes reign in F1. We are leading in both championships and we are in good shape - I hope when we get the new car we will go even quicker.

McLaren, like Ferrari, have started the season with an updated version of their 2002 car and the decision has paid dividends.

David Coulthard won the first race of the season, with Raikkonen in third place, and now Raikkonen has made it two in a row.

Dennis said: "We can win. I think we've shown that now."

Coulthard was bitterly disappointed by his retirement from a potentially winning position on the third lap in Malaysia and could not resist criticising his team.

The new Ferrari is expected to make its debut either at the fourth race of the season - although there is speculation that following two consecutive defeats the team may race it at the next event in Brazil.

The 2003 McLaren will not be ready until the fifth race of the season at the earliest.




MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX

MAIDEN WIN FOR RAIKKONEN

TRACK GUIDE

2003 SEASON RACE BY RACE
 

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SEE ALSO
Angry Coulthard criticises McLaren
23 Mar 03 |  Formula One

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