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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 17:09 GMT
Alonso beats Schumacher in opener
RACE RESULT
Fernando Alonso emerges from the pits just in time to hold off Michael Schumacher for victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix
1 F Alonso (Renault)
2 M Schumacher (Ferrari)
3 K Raikkonen (McLaren)
4 J Button (Honda)
5 JP Montoya (McLaren)
6 M Webber (Williams)
7 N Rosberg (Williams)
8 C Klien (Red Bull)
Renault's Fernando Alonso started the defence of his world championship in style by fending off Michael Schumacher to win the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Schumacher led from the start as Alonso rose from fourth on the grid to second, and the Renault closed on to the tail of the Ferrari after their first stops.

Alonso took a narrow lead after a later final stop and held on to the end.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was third after starting from the back of the grid, ahead of Honda's Jenson Button.

Raikkonen's progress was particularly impressive.

Following his suspension failure in qualifying, McLaren gave him enough fuel to do only one pit stop compared to everyone else's two, and Raikkonen responded magnificently.

It was the only opportunity to win the race and I was going for it
Fernando Alonso
He moved up to 11th on the first lap, and was ninth before the pit-stop period started.

Raikkonen moved into the points as others pitted in front of him and took the final podium position as the other leading cars made their final stops.

He comfortably held off a challenge from Button during the closing laps.

The race suggested that there will be a four-way battle for supremacy in 2006, with Renault, Ferrari, Honda and McLaren all potential winners.

As the race unfolded it became clear Schumacher had secured pole position by running less fuel in his Ferrari than Alonso had in his Renault.

Schumacher led from the start, while Alonso jumped up to second ahead of the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who he had passed on the first lap.

I would have liked to win but there is only so much you can do
Michael Schumacher
Alonso had a scare when Massa spun behind him on lap eight and nearly collided with the Renault at the first corner, and the Spaniard had to fight hard to keep Schumacher's lighter Ferrari in sight during the first stint.

Alonso made his first stop four laps later than Schumacher and rejoined nearly four seconds adrift of the Ferrari.

But he was on his tail within five laps, where he stayed until Schumacher pitted on lap 36.

Alonso had to lap two slower cars in the three laps before his pit stops, which gave Schumacher a chance.

The Renault exited the pits as the Ferrari came down the main straight and they headed into the first corner side by side.

Kimi Raikkonen in his McLaren-Mercedes
Raikkonen recovered brilliantly to finish third after starting last
But Alonso fought Schumacher off and pulled out a small lead over the rest of the lap.

The two remained close together for the rest of the race, but Alonso had enough to hold the Ferrari off.

"It was the only opportunity to win the race and I was going for it," said Alonso, who took the chequered flag 1.2 seconds clear of Schumacher.

"It was my moment. I knew that if I was in front of him at the exit, the race was mine.

"At the end it was quite a nice gap and all the last stint was quite relaxed."

Schumacher added: "If you said last week I would be second here, I would be happy because our testing was not so good.

"Fernando was a bit close when I came out of the pits, and it was quite exciting.

"Once you are behind you have to wait for a mistake or a bad situation with a back marker. It didn't really occur. I would have liked to win but there is only so much you can do."

Button lost his chance of battling at the front when he slipped from third to sixth after a bad start.

He battled with team-mate Rubens Barrichello for the first four laps, before the Englishman eased clear after the Brazilian ran into gearbox problems.

Button closed in on and passed the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya for third place, on lap 11, a move he had to repeat 27 laps later after the Colombian sneaked ahead following a later pit stop.

Mark Webber was sixth for Williams, ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who capped an extremely impressive debut by taking seventh place from the Red Bull of Christian Klien at the first corner of the final lap.


Bahrain Grand Prix result:

1. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault one hour 29 minutes 46.205 seconds
2. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1.246 seconds
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes at 19.360
4. Jenson Button (GB) Honda 19.992
5. Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 37.048
6. Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 41.932
7. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:03.043
8. Christian Klien (Aut) RedBull-Ferrari 1:06.771
9. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:09.907
10. David Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Ferrari 1:15.541
11. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:25.997
12. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1 lap
13. Scott Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1 lap
14. Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1 lap
15. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1 lap
16. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1 lap
17. Tiago Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota 2 laps
18. Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 4 laps
R Yuji Ide (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 22 laps
R Jacques Villeneuve (Can) BMW Sauber 28 laps
R Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 36 laps
R Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland-Toyota 43 laps

Key: R = retired

Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:32.408




WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC Five Live's David Croft



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