Alonso in charge in Bahrain

Alonso capitalises from Vettel’s woes to cruise to Bahrain victory; Massa follows up to complete Ferrari 1-2.

Fernando Alonso recorded the dream start to his Ferrari career with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Spaniard led a Ferrari one-two, after a gearbox issue dropped the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel out of the lead.

Vettel led for 34 of the 49 laps, and looked on course to pick up where he left off in 2009, only for a suspected broken exhaust forcing him to limp to the line. However, the German managed to nurse his RB6 to the checkered flag in fourth place.

This left Alonso out in front, who joins the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Nigel Mansell as a winner on his debut for the Scuderia. The Spaniard’s race was sparked into the life straight from the start, with an opportunistic move on his team-mate, Felipe Massa, into the first corner.

Both Ferrari drivers appeared to have no answer for Vettel in the first part of the race, with the 22-year-old pulling out a lead of over 5 seconds ahead of the field’s only tyre stop.

Once the pit stop sequence had been completed Alonso began to haul in Vettel, bringing the gap down from around 5.3 seconds to 1.2 by lap 30. Despite this, there would be no battle for the lead  as both Ferrari drivers were forced to back off – suffering from overheating in the searing Bahrain humidity.

However, Alonso’s time would come, four laps later, when Vettel appeared to suffer a huge drop off power on the pit straight. This allowed the Spaniard to cruise up behind the beleaguered Red Bull and snatch the lead on the final corner of the lap – with Felipe Massa following his team-mate through.

From then on Alonso was ominous and gracefully pulled away from Massa with a series of fastest laps to win by over sixteen seconds.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was able to benefit from Vettel’s misfortune to snatch an unlikely third place. The McLaren driver had lost out to the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg at the start and languished behind the German until the pit stops.

Subsequently, Rosberg could not keep up with Hamilton’s pace and was forced to settle for fifth after he failed to get past the slowing Vettel, before the end of the race.

Leading a gaggle of cars behind Rosberg, was Michael Schumacher who experienced a quiet return to Formula One. The seven-times champion managed to hold off Jenson Button in the second McLaren for sixth.

Webber was seventh and endured a trouble-free run, despite his car emitting huge plumes of smoke on the opening lap of the race, which caused Robert Kubica (Renault) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) to subsequently touch and spin. Although both drivers managed to fight back and set fast times throughout the remainder of the race, it was not enough to get back into a points scoring position.

Rounding off the top ten, were Tonio Liuzzi (Force India) and Rubens Barrichello (Williams).

Rookies Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov suffered tough races on their debuts in Formula One. The former spun around the new section of the Sakhir circuit on the third lap, and was forced to pit for tyres. Unlike Hulkenberg, however, Petrov’s race was ended on lap 14, with a suspension problem.

Lotus proved to be the only team to get one of its drivers to the finish of the Grand Prix with Heikki Kovalainen one lap down in 15th place. Jarno Trulli was also classified as a finisher, but stopped out on track on the final lap. Earlier in the race Lotus had been involved in a scrap with fellow-newcomers Virgin. However, both Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock’s races were cut short due to technical problems. Additionally Hispania Racing struggled to rack up any more miles on their brand new Dallara-built car, with Karun Chandhok’s race ending on the second lap, after hitting a bump, and Bruno Senna suffering from an engine failure.

Despite the late-drama at the front, the Bahrain Grand Prix was nowhere near a classic. The new rules for 2010, failed to produce the excitement that had been predicted by so many within the Formula One world. This will no doubt be a talking issue for teams and fans alike, for the considerable future.

The next round of the Championship will take place on the 28th of March, when Formula One heads down under for the Australian Grand Prix.

2010 Formula One World Championship

Round 1 - Bahrain, Sakhir Circuit (49 Laps)

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      +    38.799
5.   Rosberg       Mercedes              +    40.213
6.   Schumacher    Mercedes              +    44.180
7.   Button        McLaren-Mercedes      +    45.280
8.   Webber        Red Bull-Renault      +    46.360
9.   Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes  +    53.008
10.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth     +  1:02.489
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        +    2 laps
16.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    +    3 laps
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth        +    3 laps
Ret. De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari        +   21 laps
Ret. Senna         HRT-Cosworth          +   32 laps
Ret. Glock         Virgin-Cosworth       +   33 laps
Ret. Petrov        Renault               +   36 laps
Ret. Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        +   38 laps
Ret. Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth       +   47 laps
Ret. Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth          +   48 laps

Fastest Lap:

Fernando Alonso  Ferarri: 1:58.287

World Championship Standings after Round 1 of 19

Drivers Championship:

1.  Fernando Alonso    25 Points
2.  Felipe Massa       18 Points
3.  Lewis Hamilton     15 Points
4.  Sebastian Vettel   12 Points
5.  Nico Rosberg       10 Points
6.  Michael Schumacher  8 Points
7.  Jenson Button       6 Points
8.  Mark Webber         4 Points
9.  Tonio Liuzzi        2 Points
10. Rubens Barrichello  1 Point

Constructors Championship:

1. Ferrari             43 Points
2. McLaren             21 Points
3. Mercedes GP         18 Points
4. Red Bull Racing     16 Points
5. Force India          2 Points
6. Williams             1 Point