Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen won the Malaysian Grand Prix and revived Formula One's title race Sunday, setting up an expected season-long struggle with McLaren. Raikkonen had moved ahead of pole-sitting teammate Felipe Massa after the first set of pitstops at Sepang and cruised to victory, 20 seconds ahead of BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, with McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen a further 19 seconds back in third.
Massa spun off on the 31st lap under no pressure while running in second place.
The McLaren pair of Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton started from eighth and ninth places after receiving five grid place penalties for causing interference in qualifying, and were never a threat to the Ferraris.
Hamilton was further compromised by a poor first pit stop, spent much of the race stuck behind the slower Red Bull of Mark Webber, and finished fifth, closing hard behind Toyota's Jarno Trulli but unable to pass the fourth-placed Italian.
BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was sixth and set the fastest lap, while Webber held on for seventh in front of Renault's Fernando Alonso.
The win lifted Raikkonen to 11 championship points, just three behind Hamilton, who won the season-opening race in Australia last week. It also helped Ferrari recover from the disappointment of last weekend's season opener in Australia where the team gained just one point and both cars failed to finish.
Heidfeld was also on 11 points, one ahead of Kovalainen. The race had a clean start through the first corner, where Trulli and Heidfeld _ who started third and fifth respectively _ tangled, costing them both several spots. Williams' Nico Rosberg collided with Toyota's Timo Glock, eliminating Glock from the race while Rosberg was forced to pit for a new front wing.
Hamilton started brightly and was up to fifth by the end of the first lap, settling behind Webber.
However Hamilton's first pit stop lasted 20 seconds, as mechanics struggled to remove the right front wheel, with large amounts of brake dust being released, demonstrating how hard the Briton had pushed in the early laps.
Raikkonen passed Massa via quicker pit stops, and the Ferrari pair settled ahead of Kubica and Kovalainen. After the first set of pitstops, those four led from Trulli in fifth, Webber in sixth, Hamilton was seventh and Heidfeld eighth.
Massa spun off on the 31st lap, appearing to throttle out of a corner too early and spinning into a gravel trap. The loss of Massa, and the demotion of Webber as a result of exiting the pits into traffic, were the only changes among the leaders from then on.