Alonso leads Ferrari one-two in Bahrain
Fernando Alonso took a comfortable victory on his Ferrari debut in Bahrain this afternoon, winning by 16 seconds after initial race leader Sebastian Vettel fell behind with mechanical problems just after half distance. Second place for Felipe Massa secured the Italian marque a one-two finish, while McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton completed the podium in third.
From the start pole-sitter Vettel romped clear at the front, opening a two-second lead by the end of the first lap. In what turned out to be a crucial move for his race win, Fernando Alonso squeezed by team-mate Massa at the second corner, with Massa just managing to keep third from Hamilton thanks to the Briton running wide at turn 4.
Over the course of the first stint, Vettel managed to open a gap of five second to second-place Alonso before the Spaniard pitted on lap 16. As expected, both Vettel and Massa did likewise the following lap, and Vettel re-emerged with a 3.5 second lead. However, with all front runners having switched from the super-soft to the medium compound tyre, it was the Ferrari that had the advantage this time around, and Alonso slowly chipped away at his rival’s lead.
The closest he got was within 1.1 seconds, but cooling worries in the Ferrari camp forced Alonso to back off, until Vettel started losing time with a suspected exhaust problem two laps later. With Vettel lacking power on the straights, Alonso duly nabbed the lead on lap 34 and immediately opened a considerable gap to team-mate Massa, who was just over a second behind. Posting numerous fastest race laps, Alonso eventually ended the day 16 seconds in the lead, capping a dominant yet surprising conclusion to the 2010 curtain-raiser.
While Massa was able to live with the pace of Alonso while in Vettel’s slipstream, the Brazilian was no match for the double world champion in clear air. Lewis Hamilton had his quick pitcrew to thank for third place, having spent the first stint tucked up behind former karting team-mate Nico Rosberg. By the time he had leapfrogged him in the pitstops, Alonso was 15 seconds up the road, but a strong stint saw the Briton close to within seven seconds of Massa.
Outside the podium positions, Sebastian Vettel hung onto fourth place, after seeing a probable victory slip from his grasp due to yet more reliability problems. The German did well to hold off fellow countryman Nico Rosberg in the closing stages, scoring 12 points under the new scoring system. Rosberg took fifth ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher, while Jenson Button got his title defense off to a disappointing start with seventh place.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber had to settle for eighth after being stuck behind slower cars all day thanks to a poor grid position, while Vitantonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barrichello rounded out the top ten points-scorers.
Unfortunately for the spectators, the strong performance of both Bridgestone tyre compounds today resulted in a less than spectacular race, with few overtaking manoeuvres. All the action was left to the slower teams, as they battled for positions in the teens. Of the new teams, Lotus was the only team to get a car to the finish, with Heikki Kovalainen taking the chequered flag in 15th place. Team-mate Jarno Trulli was also classified, but stopped on-track before finishing the race. Both HRT and Virgin cars retired before half-distance.
Here are the full results,
|2||7||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||49||+16.0 secs||2||18|
|3||2||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||49||+23.1 secs||4||15|
|4||5||Sebastian Vettel||RBR-Renault||49||+38.7 secs||1||12|
|5||4||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes Benz GP Ltd||49||+40.2 secs||5||10|
|6||3||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes Benz GP Ltd||49||+44.1 secs||7||8|
|7||1||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||49||+45.2 secs||8||6|
|8||6||Mark Webber||RBR-Renault||49||+46.3 secs||6||4|
|9||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||49||+53.0 secs||12||2|
|10||9||Rubens Barrichello||Williams-Cosworth||49||+62.4 secs||11||1|
|11||11||Robert Kubica||Renault||49||+69.0 secs||9|
|12||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||49||+82.9 secs||10|
|13||17||Jaime Alguersuari||STR-Ferrari||49||+92.6 secs||18|
|14||10||Nico Hulkenberg||Williams-Cosworth||48||+1 Lap||13|
|15||19||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus-Cosworth||47||+2 Laps||21|
|16||16||Sebastien Buemi||STR-Ferrari||46||+3 Laps||15|
|Ret||22||Pedro de la Rosa||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||28||Hydraulics||14|
|Ret||21||Bruno Senna||HRT-Cosworth||17||+32 Laps||23|
|Ret||23||Kamui Kobayashi||BMW Sauber-Ferrari||11||Hydraulics||16|
|Ret||25||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin-Cosworth||2||Hydraulics||22|
|Ret||20||Karun Chandhok||HRT-Cosworth||1||+48 Laps||24|