Former world champion Jackie Stewart described Nico Rosberg's debut as "the best performance of any young driver I've seen for a very long time".
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)
Despite being relegated to the back of the field after a first-lap spin, Rosberg finished seventh in Bahrain.
"I can't remember a performance in a first Grand Prix that was so impressive," added the Scot.
Williams co-owner Patrick Head said Rosberg drove a "stunning" race, adding that he had "massive potential".
Stewart, who won the title in 1969, '71 and '73, added: "His judgement, the manner in which he went about it... it's a rare commodity today but as a racing driver he knows how to pass and carries it out."
Rosberg's father Keke, who was world champion in 1982, said his son's display had been "phenomenal".
The Williams driver lost 45 seconds after his error at the first corner but fought his way back up the field, setting the fastest lap-time in the process.
"It was unbelievable, to have a fastest race lap under normal conditions in your first-ever Grand Prix," said Rosberg senior.
Nico Rosberg said: "It's great that I was able to add some excitement to the race," said the 20-year-old.
"It's very special for me on my debut and it was fun also to drive.
"The car felt great and the overtaking was a lot of fun. I always heard it was impossible to overtake in F1 but it worked out fine for me."