Alonso wins Bahrain in his Ferrari debut

Alonso wins Bahrain in his Ferrari debut

Taking advantage of Sebastian Vettel's broken exhaust header late in the race, Fernando Alonso powered his way to a 14.3 second victory, leading team Scuderia Ferrari to a 1-2 finish Sunday in the opening race of the Formula One season at the...

Taking advantage of Sebastian Vettel's broken exhaust header late in the race, Fernando Alonso powered his way to a 14.3 second victory, leading team Scuderia Ferrari to a 1-2 finish Sunday in the opening race of the Formula One season at the Grand Prix of Bahrain at Sakir.

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Felipe Massa, back after many months off following his accident last summer was second, while Lewis Hamilton finished in third for McLaren-Mercedes, seven seconds adrift of the Brazilian.

"It was a very special day for me," claimed Alonso, who had not won a Grand Prix race since 2008 in Suzuka, Japan. "It is very special for me too because it happened with Ferrari and we have been working all winter for this and we are prepared."

Alonso got clear right from the start as he passed Massa right at the first corner of the race, but Vettel shot out even quicker from pole position, and the German took his Red Bull-Renault to a five-second gap over the two-time world champion by lap 14.

Two of the new teams, Virgin Racing and HRT, had retired both of their drivers with mechanical problems by the time that the first tire change pit stops began on lap 15.

Even after all the changing of positions due to pit stops -- now for tires only, with refueling banned -- Vettel still led the race. However, by the 30th lap, it was obvious that the leading Red Bull car was beginning to develop some kind of trouble.

What turned out to be a cracked exhaust slowed the car enough to give both Alonso and Massa enough time to catch up on the German. Four laps later, both Ferrari drivers had caught Vettel, and a few laps later, even Hamilton passed him, ruining any chance for the 22-year-old to get his first podium of the season.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"It's a pity today," Vettel rued the outcome. "It was positive all weekend, except for the exhaust failure. From Saturday morning onwards, we were one of the quickest cars on track in all conditions. It cost us a lot, but we've got 12 important points."

After getting past Vettel, Alonso easily maintained his lead over Massa, and once the Spaniard broke free of the traffic, began to set fastest lap times. With his teammate conserving fuel, he finished far ahead of Massa to take the 22nd victory of his career and his first for the Prancing Horse.

"I caught Fernando in a good way, then I started to have a problem in terms of temperature in the car," Massa explained after the race. "It made a lot of fuel consumption so I started to save fuel in the last 25-30 laps."

"There was nothing to do any more," he conceded.

Hamilton wasn't able to attack Massa, though, and had to be satisfied with a third place to start his season, after spending the early part of the race behind Rosberg's Mercedes.

"I locked up into Turn 4 and went wide, got in a bad position and Rosberg got past me," he recalled. "I was then much faster but it's difficult to follow here and look after the tyres. If I was ahead of him maybe I would have been able to follow the train (Alonso and Massa) were creating."

Despite his continuing problems with the car, Vettel managed to finish in fourth, before pulling his car off the track after just after crossing the finish line.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP and Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Mercedes duo of Germans Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the latter of whom had not raced a Formula One event in three years, were fifth and sixth, respectively.

Defending world champion Jenson Button took seventh, while Mark Webber, Vitantionio Luzzi and Rubens Barrichello took the last three points-paying positions.

Only 16 of the 24 starters crossed the finish line, many of the cars suffering from hydraulic problems in the heat of Bahrain. In addition to the Virgin and HRT cars, both Saubers also retired.

In spite of finishing at the back of the field, the new Lotus team could take satisfaction in having both of their cars classified, even if Jarno Trulli had to pull off to the side of the track on his final lap. Heikki Kovalainen and Trulli were classified 15th and 17th.

"I'm completely over the moon," exclaimed team principal Tony Fernandes. "I cannot describe the feeling. Six months of work and to have both cars finish is just unbelievable. We're thrilled, we're happy and the spirit in the team is fantastic. It's a great start and better than I could have dreamt of."

Alonso, though, was delighted to finally realize that after many years of frustration, he at last had a winning car.

"Being first and second here is something that the team deserves and this is dedicated to all the people in Italy, and this is very positive."said Alonso.

Scuderia Ferrari team celebration, Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari Stefano Domenicali Ferrari General Director, Giancarlo Fisichella, Test Driver, Scuderia Ferrari, Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Formula One will now move from the warm desert of the Middle East, to the fall conditions of Southern Australia as the next round of the world championship takes place in Melbourne on March 28th.

Editor's note:

In a post-race statement the Red Bull team has found it was a spark plug failure that caused Vettel to slow, instead of a broken exhaust, as previously reported.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Sebastian Vettel
Teams Ferrari , Red Bull Racing , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Virgin Racing