Bahrain GP: Alonso tops Ferrari 1-2

Sunday 14-March-2010 13:49

Fernando Alonso started his Ferrari career with a bang, winning the season-opening Bahrain GP ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.

With the new regulations, new drivers and new teams all coming into play, the outcome of the Sakhir race was anybody's guess, although many were surmising that Ferrari were the favourites.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had their measure throughout the first half of the grand prix. However, a broken exhaust gave the Red Bull racer a power loss - costing him up to three seconds a lap. It also cost him a podium position as as he was overhauled by Alonso, Massa and Hamilton.

Vettel finished fourth ahead of Rosberg, Michael Schumacher and World Champion Jenson Button who came home in seventh place for his new team.


PRE-RACE NEWS: Ferrari made a precautionary engine change to both Massa and Alonso's cars after spotting "abnormalities" in the telemetry. Adrian Sutil was the only top ten runner to use the harder, prime tyre. Both Hispania cars started from the pitlane to avoid a potential first corner melee.

CONDITIONS: Bright sunshine, 35C ambient, 39C track.

GRID: 1. Vettel, 2.Massa, 3.Alonso, 4.Hamilton, 5.Rosberg 6.Webber, 7.Schumacher, 8.Button, 9.Kubica, 10.Sutil 11.Barrichello, 12.Liuzzi

START: As the red lights went out Vettel was smartly away, followed by the two Ferraris and Lewis Hamilton tentatively looking up the inside into Turn 1. The Red Bull was under no threat, but Fernando Alonso was able to get round the outside of Felipe Massa and then take the inside line for Turn 2.

Hamilton was playing it safe for the first turn but after Turn 2 started to push Massa and even got his nose in front going up to Turn 4. Massa saw him, moved over on him and pushed the McLaren off-track. The Ferrari kept its line for the turn and when Hamilton ran wide he lost momentum and Rosberg was able to take P4 off him.

Mark Webber ran side by side through Turn 1 and 2 with Michael Schumacher and lost out at the exit at which point the Red Bull emitted huge bouts of smoke as though it had blown an engine. Those behind were naturally compromised by the lack of vision. Right behind him Kubica spun forcing Sutil to do the same while the rest of the field took avoiding action.

Button passed Webber, but then Webber got him back before Turn 7.

CASUALTIES: No front wings damaged, but Sutil and Kubica's opening bid for points were effectively over. At the end of the opening lap they were 22nd and 21st.

LAP ONE ORDER: 1.Vettel, 2.Alonso, 3.Massa, 4.Rosberg, 5.Hamilton, 6.Schumacher, 7.Webber, 8.Button, 9.Liuzzi, 10.Barrichello, 11.Petrov, 12.Kobayashi, 13.Hulkenberg, 14. de la Rosa

RACE DEVELOPMENTS: Vettel had a two second lead after the opening lap but Alonso soon began to put a halt on that kind of progress. The race settled into a groove with Vettel leading from the two Ferraris, Rosberg slowly dropping back and holding up Hamilton.

Newcomers Karun Chandhok (Hispania) and Lucas Di Grassi (Virgin) soon parked their cars while rookie Nico Hulkenberg lost control of his Williams and went off track on Lap 3 damaging his aero package and necessitating a return to the pits.

By Lap 13 Vettel had a 4.1 gap over Alonso who headed team-mate Massa by 2.2 seconds with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes a cavernous 11 seconds in arrears.

With nothing to lose Robert Kubica pitted early for a new set of prime tyres and immediately set the Fastest Lap on lap 14 of 2:01.397.

Spotting the advantage of a tyre change and clearly stuck behind a slower car Lewis Hamilton was first to dive in for his second set of Bridgestones on Lap 15 as did Michael Schumacher.

The reactive set of pit-stops for the front runners soon followed: Alonso, Rosberg, Webber and Button came in on Lap 16 and then Vettel and Massa on Lap 17. The shake-up was that Hamilton jumped Rosberg and Button jumped Webber.

ORDER ON LAP 19: 1.Vettel, 2.Alonso, 3.Massa, 4.Liuzzi (not stopped), 5.Hamilton, 6.Barrichello (not stopped), 7.Rosberg, 8.Schumacher, 9.Button, 10.Webber, 11.Buemi (not stopped).

SECOND STINT: Vettel's gap at the front varied in the second (and final) stint. On Lap 19 it was 3.4 seconds, by Lap 27 it had dropped to 2.4 seconds with Massa still in close attendance.

Then all of a sudden Alonso began to close up, not least helped by the Fastest Lap on Lap 29 of 1:59.583 reducing the gap to 1.5. By Lap 30 it was down to 1.1, but as Fernando got into the turbulent air of the Red Bull he began to get overheating problems and had to drop back.

Then on Lap 33 as Ferrari were instructing third place Felipe Massa to short-shift to preserve engine life, the Red Bull out front started to slow. The change in tone to the exhaust note indicated that Vettel had a cracked exhaust.

Alonso simply cruised past him and and half a lap later Massa was though to make it a Ferrari 1-2. At which point Alonso really began to stretch his legs and opened up an unbreachable gap to Massa, while Lewis Hamilton closed and passed the ailing Vettel on Lap 38.

At this point of the 49-lap race Vettel looked like fading to 6th or 7th as he was losing three seconds a lap to his pursuers, Rosberg, Schumacher and Button. However Sebastian was able to steady his rate of loss and although he was only a second clear of Rosberg on Lap 47, by Lap 48 he'd increased that gap to 1.3.

Behind Rosberg Button closed on 6th place Michael Schumacher but couldn't get close enough in the twisty middle sector to make the McLaren's speed advantage pay on the straight. Similarly, Mark Webber had a frustrating time behind Button, unable to get near the McLaren on places where he could overtake but following him closely through corners where high downforce was at a premium.

Alonso duly crossed the line for an impressive debut with Felipe Massa making it the almost-perfect return and the perfect start for the Scuderia. Hamilton's podium place was better than he'd expected, Vettel's fourth place frustrating. Rosberg and Schumacher got solid points for Mercedes in 5th and 6th. Button's 7th owed much to poor qualifying and Webber's 8th was lacklustre compared to the pace of his team-mate. Liuzzi was only six seconds back in 9th and Barrichello claimed a point on his Williams debut in 10th

MENTIONED IN DISPATCHES: Virgin's Timo Glock managed to get past Kovalainen to lead the race of the new teams but lost gears and had to retire. Heiki Kovalainen's Lotus put in a 2:02 lap at the close which was just two seconds off the pace of the leaders. Robert Kubica recovered from his spin to finish 11th and Sutil 12th. Vitaly Petrov had a great start and led his team-mate but retired.

SUMMARY: It wasn't a great advert for F1 and had Vettel's exhaust held up, the interest would have dipped even further. Alonso, once given the green light to use his car free of heat and tyre restrictions looked ominously quick.


1 F. Alonso Ferrari 1:39:20.396
2 F. Massa Ferrari + 16.099
3 L. Hamilton McLaren + 23.182
4 S. Vettel Red Bull + 38.799
5 N. Rosberg Mercedes Grand Prix + 40.213
6 M. Schumacher Mercedes Grand Prix + 44.163
7 J. Button McLaren + 45.280
8 M. Webber Red Bull + 46.360
9 V. Liuzzi Force India F1 + 53.008
10 R. Barrichello Williams + 1:02.489
11 R. Kubica Renault + 1:09.093
12 A. Sutil Force India F1 + 1:22.958
13 J. Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1:32.656
14 N. Hulkenberg Williams + 1 lap(s)
15 H. Kovalainen Lotus F1 + 2 lap(s)
16 J. Trulli Lotus F1 + 3 lap(s
Did not finish
17 S. Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 3 lap(s)
18 P. de la Rosa Sauber + 21 lap(s)
19 B. Senna HRT F1 Team + 32 lap(s)
20 T. Glock Virgin Racing + 33 lap(s)
21 V. Petrov Renault + 36 lap(s)
22 K. Kobayashi Sauber + 38 lap(s)
23 L. Di Grassi Virgin Racing + 46 lap(s)
24 K. Chandhok HRT F1 Team + 47 lap(s)

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