Kimi Raikkonen says his early pit stop was triggered by a visor tear-off getting trapped in his rear brakes rather than a planned strategy by Alfa Romeo as he found himself unable to move up from his eighth-place finish.

On his first race since returning to the Sauber-run outfit, Raikkonen was the first of the midfield fighters to pit during the Australian Grand Prix coming in several laps earlier than predicted on the optimum tyre strategy.

The Finn’s premature stop forced other teams into stops to avoid being exposed to an undercut, with track position proving vital at Albert Park due to limited overtaking opportunities at the Melbourne circuit, but the former Formula 1 world champion says the move wasn’t strategical and was to rectify a rear brake problem after getting a tear-off lodged.

“We had an issue with the temperature of the rear brakes as one of the tear-offs from the visor went in and that’s why we had to pit earlier than planned,” Raikkonen said. “The car has a lot of speed and it felt good.

“Our car was pretty strong in the race, but then we got stuck behind cars and there is not much you can do. It seems that it is easier to get closer to the car in front of you but it’s still very hard to overtake.”

Five questions that need answering in F1 2019

But with four points from the opening round of the 2019 F1 campaign, Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur remains upbeat with a positive start despite facing unexpected setbacks.

“For the first race of the season, it was an okay race,” Vasseur said. “We had some small issues which we could not have anticipated and both drivers put up a good fight.

“We are returning home with four points, which is a positive. To start the season with one car in the top ten is a good achievement and we will push hard to score some more points at the next Grand Prix in Bahrain.”

In last year’s Australian Grand Prix, Sergey Sirotkin suffered brake failure after a sandwich bag got trapped in one of his Williams’ brake components and was forced to retire.