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Alonso takes victory on Ferrari debut

Fernando Alonso got his Ferrari career off to a glorious start by leading team-mate Felipe Massa to a comfortable one-two in the Bahrain Grand Prix - but only after Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull lost power while leading

The German still managed to limp to the flag in fourth, with Lewis Hamilton benefiting from his problem to get on the podium for McLaren. The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher completed the top six.

Vettel had looked comfortable in the lead for most of the race, pulling out a five second advantage prior to the leaders' sole pitstops during laps 15 to 17.

Alonso had taken second from Massa through the first corners at the start, and then closed a little on Vettel by taking fresh tyres one lap sooner. He continued to chip away at the gap in the second half of the race, getting to within 1.5s and bringing Massa along with him, but Vettel seemed to have enough in hand to keep the Ferraris at bay.

That suddenly changed at the start of lap 34 though, as Vettel abruptly slowed on the pits straight, reporting a loss of power that the team later diagnosed as an exhaust problem.

Alonso was soon all over the back of the hobbled Red Bull, blasting past and into the lead on the run into the final corner, with Massa followed him on the next straight to take second.

Just in case Massa had any thoughts of mounting a challenge for the lead, Alonso then fired off a string of new fastest race laps to build a 5s margin and set himself up to take his first victory since the 2008 Japanese GP. He continued to set fastest laps in the closing stages to keep himself amused, eventually extending his lead over Massa into double figures.

Hamilton ran behind Rosberg at first, but jumped the Mercedes in the first pitstops. He picked up third from the slowing Vettel with 11 laps to go.

After that Vettel managed to get a little more speed from his car and held on to fourth, finishing just ahead of Rosberg.

Schumacher ran a few seconds behind his team-mate throughout his comeback race, fending off world champion Jenson Button (McLaren) and Mark Webber (Red Bull), who swapped places when they pitted in unison on lap 16.

Webber had a trouble-free run despite his Red Bull emitting huge plumes of white smoke on the opening lap. Unsighted in this cloud, Renault's Robert Kubica and Force India's Adrian Sutil touched and spun, although they recovered to 11th and 12th.

An early pitstop allowed Kubica to set some rapid times and vault a few midfield cars, but in the end he could not get close enough to 10th placed Rubens Barrichello's Williams. Force India had the consolation of ninth position for Sutil's team-mate Tonio Liuzzi.

Rookies Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg had tough races, with the Williams spinning in the fast downhill corners following the new loop early on, and Petrov having to park in the pits with a suspension problem - which he felt he may have caused by hitting a kerb too hard. Prior to that the Renault had run 11th thanks to a fast start.

Lotus managed to get both cars to the flag, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli within 3s of the pace at times on their way to 15th and 16th, although Trulli had to nurse a mechanical problem in the final laps.

The other two new teams did not last long. Karun Chandhok crashed his Hispania on lap two, and team-mate Bruno Senna had a suspected hydraulic problem 16 laps later. Virgin also posted two early retirements, with hydraulic issues stopping Lucas di Grassi after two laps and Timo Glock hitting gearbox trouble just after passing Kovalainen for the lead of the unofficial newcomers' class.

Sauber was the other team forced to retire both cars, as Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi suffered hydraulic gremlins mid-race.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS

The Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain;
49 laps; 308.405km;
Weather: Sunny.

Classified:

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Alonso        Ferrari                    1h39:20.396
 2.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    16.099
 3.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    23.182
 4.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +    38.713
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    40.263
 6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +    44.180
 7.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +    45.260
 8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    46.308
 9.  Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes       +    53.089
10.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:02.400
11.  Kubica        Renault                    +  1:09.093
12.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:22.958
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:32.656
14.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +     1 lap
16.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +    3 laps
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth             +    3 laps

Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:58.287

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap
De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               30
Senna         HRT-Cosworth                 18
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              17
Petrov        Renault                      14
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               12
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              3
Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth                 2


World Championship standings, round 1:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Alonso        25        1.  Ferrari                    43
 2.  Massa         18        2.  McLaren-Mercedes           21
 3.  Hamilton      15        3.  Mercedes                   18
 4.  Vettel        12        4.  Red Bull-Renault           16
 5.  Rosberg       10        5.  Force India-Mercedes        2
 6.  Schumacher     8        6.  Williams-Cosworth           1
 7.  Button         6       
 8.  Webber         4       
 9.  Liuzzi         2       
10.  Barrichello    1       
       
All timing unofficial

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