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Fernando Alonso leads Ferrari one-two in Bahrain

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso

Highlights - Alonso wins Bahrain Grand Prix

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport in Bahrain

Fernando Alonso led Felipe Massa to a stunning Ferrari one-two after the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel hit trouble at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Alonso trailed the German from the start but swept by as the Red Bull suffered a spark plug failure.

Massa followed the Spaniard past on the next lap and Lewis Hamilton benefited from Vettel's problem to take third.

Vettel eventually finished fourth, holding off the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.

On his return after three years in retirement, the seven-time world champion was in better form in the race than he had been in qualifying.

Coming back to the top of the podium is always special and it's even more special with Ferrari

Fernando Alonso

But Schumacher was unable to keep pace with team-mate Rosberg in the early stages of the race and spent the afternoon holding off the faster McLaren of Jenson Button.

The reigning champion finished seventh ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber, with the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barrichello's Williams taking the final points under the new scoring system in ninth and 10th.

On the evidence of this race, Button faces a tough battle to hold on to his crown, with McLaren unable to match the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

Vettel had taken an impressive pole position on Saturday and appeared to have the race under control as he inched away from Alonso in the early stages of the race.

But eventually the reliability troubles that had blighted the team's pre-season preparation, and their practice running here on Friday, hit them again.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel frustrated by mechanical failure

Vettel said: "It's a pity, but what can you do?

"Overall it's a positive. We were one of the quickest, we had very good control of the race and were on top of the strategy.

"Everything was running smoothly. Luckily we could continue and finish fourth but we should have won, really.

"It seemed to kind of recover at the end but it wasn't great and it cost us a lot. The points are still important."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted: "It's very annoying, we really had the race comfortably under control there."

Alonso passed Massa, who started one place ahead of him in second, around the outside of Turn One at the start, but he could not initially keep pace with the Red Bull.

Vettel built up a lead of 5.5 seconds over the Ferrari before his sole pit stop on lap 15, a lap before the double world champion.

By lap 18, Alonso had the lead down to 3.5secs and, although he edged closer, by lap 28 Vettel's advantage was still 2.4secs.

Two laps later, though, Alonso was just 1.1secs behind. The Spaniard lost a second on the next lap as his car struggled in the turbulence behind the Red Bull, but the prospects of a thrilling battle for the lead were dashed on lap 33 when Vettel's car suddenly started to sound rough and Alonso swept by on the penultimate straight on lap 34.

Fernando Alonso

Bahrain win 'special' for Alonso

Alonso said: "I had some pace in the pocket at that time of the race but I was just concentrating to manage the tyres.

"I was waiting for the time to attack, maybe for the last 10 laps, but suddenly Vettel had a car problem and we had the chance to overtake him a little earlier than expected.

"He was very quick, especially on the soft tyres and I could not follow him, but on the hard tyres we were better. It's difficult to know (what would have happened if Vettel had not had his problem)."

Massa followed Alonso through at the start of the next lap and the Ferraris controlled the race from then on.

The two men appeared closely matched before Vettel's engine trouble, although Alonso always seemed to have Massa under control, extending the gap again whenever the Brazilian closed in a little.

As the race ran to a conclusion Alonso built a lead of more than 14 seconds, as Massa was instructed to save fuel.

ANDREW BENSON ON TWITTER

It was nevertheless a formidable performance by the man many are tipping to win a third world title this season.

"It's a special day for me," said Alonso. "Coming back to the top of the podium is always special and it's even more special with Ferrari, with all the history behind the team and the expectations a driver has driving for Ferrari.

"There is no better way to start the relationship. I am in the best team in the world.

"We did nothing today, only won the first grand prix, but it is a good start. I'm very optimistic for the rest of the season."

Massa said: "I didn't have a good start and I lost an important position in the first corner.

"The race was perfect for me, the car was perfect. I was able to catch Fernando easily after the stops.

"Then I started to have temperature problems and we were worried about the fuel consumption, so I started to save fuel and there was nothing to do any more. I was lucky that Vettel had his problem."

Hamilton and McLaren had been off the pace in qualifying but appeared much more competitive in the race.

He spent the first stint trapped behind Rosberg but, once past him at the pit stops, the Englishman was able to keep pace with the Ferraris - if not close the 11-second gap.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa

Massa wants improvements to Ferrari car

Nevertheless, it was an encouraging performance from McLaren after they had been more than a second adrift of Vettel and Massa in qualifying.

"I had quite a good race," said Hamilton. "But I lost a bit of ground at Turn Four and Rosberg got past me.

"I was held up behind him for the first half of the race - I was much faster but it's very difficult to follow here while trying to look after your tyres.

"If I was ahead of him I may have been able to follow the train Ferrari were creating. It's more than we expected this weekend and we need to continue to push to keep up with Ferrari."

Button, stuck behind Schumacher for much of the race, was unable to show his true pace.

"I caught up with Schumacher but I couldn't do anything behind him," Button told BBC Sport.

606: DEBATE
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"I didn't have enough pace in the middle section to stay with him and have a go at him in the last section.

"The tyres seemed to be holding pretty well - they were better than I thought. It's a good first race, I'm reasonably happy with that."

Schumacher matched Rosberg's pace after their pit stops but he remains a long way from the imperious form he showed as he racked up a record 91 victories in his first stint from 1991-2006.

Lotus won the battle of the new teams by virtue of lasting the race, which the cars of Virgin and Hispania did not.

Timo Glock's Virgin was leading that private race but he had to retire with gearbox trouble and left Heikki Kovalainen to lead home team-mate Jarno Trulli at the back of the field.



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Bahrain Grand Prix

RaceLast updated: 15 Nov 2012 12:33 UK
Position Country Driver Race Time
1 spain F Alonso 1:39:20.396
2 brazil F Massa 1:39:36.495
3 great britain L Hamilton 1:39:43.578
4 germany S Vettel 1:39:59.195
5 germany N Rosberg 1:40:00.609
6 germany M Schumacher 1:40:04.559
7 great britain J Button 1:40:05.676
8 australia M Webber 1:40:06.756
9 italy V Liuzzi 1:40:13.404
10 brazil R Barrichello 1:40:22.885


see also
Bahrain Grand Prix race results
18 Feb 10 |  Results
We can match Ferrari - Hamilton
14 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher questions rule changes
14 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain GP as it happened
14 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel stuns Ferrari to grab pole
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Sluggish McLaren worries Button
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix Saturday photos
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Bahrain GP qualifying as it happened
13 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Winning start is vital - Button
11 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
All-clear for McLaren wing design
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1


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