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Alonso marks Ferrari debut with Bahrain victory

Fernando Alonso won Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to lead a Ferrari 1-2 on his debut for the Italian Formula One team.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2010 00:19 IST

Fernando Alonso won Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to lead a Ferrari 1-2 on his debut for the Italian Formula One team.

The Spaniard passed teammate Felipe Massa at the second corner after the start before overtaking pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel on the 34th lap for a lead he would never relinquish. After two frustrating years at Renault, Alonso pounded his chest after jumping on top of his car in celebration as Ferrari got off to its best start since 2004 - when Schumacher led a 1-2 start. Alonso replaced Kimi Raikkonen, who also won on his Ferrari debut three years ago.

Massa passed Vettel soon after to claim second on his return to racing after a life-threatening crash last July in Hungary. Lewis Hamilton overtook Vettel at the same spot as the McLaren driver finished third ahead of his Red Bull opponent. Nico Rosberg was more than 40 seconds behind Alonso in fifth place. Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher, who started seventh, was sixth in his first race in three years.

Alonso and Ferrari confirmed their preseason expectations as title favorites after the two-time champion's 22nd career victory and first since the 2008 Japanese GP. It was Alonso's third win at the Middle East track but first since 2006 - when he won his last title.

Alonso worked his way up behind Vettel, who had won four of his six previous races from pole, to set up his pass at the final corner before the finish line straight.

Massa pulled up to Vettel on the same stretch before going around last year's championship runner-up at the first corner, where Hamilton passed the German driver four laps later. Schumacher's new team, Mercedes, showed it still has some work to do to provide him with a car worthy of an eighth title. Schumacher finished 3.9 seconds behind Rosberg.

Defending champion Jenson Button finished seventh for McLaren, while Mark Webber of Red Bull was eighth.

Tonio Liuzzi of Force India and Rubens Barrichello of Williams rounded out the top 10 to finish in the points following a change in the scoring system.

Ferrari changed both of its engines without penalty before the start as a precaution, but there was little caution from Alonso as the Spaniard held the inside position to pass Massa into second after a relatively clean start from the 22 cars on the grid. Rosberg jumped in front of Hamilton with Schumacher behind him after getting ahead of Webber, whose engine spewed smoke to blind Renault's Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil of Force India. Those two spun out in the confusion to drop out of the top 10. Karun Chandhok's debut ended after two laps after he and Hispania Racing teammate Bruno Senna started from pit lane. Virgin Racing's Lucas Di Grassi was out one lap later soon after Williams' Nico Hulkenberg recovered from a wild spin across the track. Virgin Racing failed to finish after Timo Glock also retired. The leading drivers didn't begin to pit until lap 16, when Russian driver Vitaly Petrov's Renault retired with a front suspension problem.

Vettel was the last to change to hard tires - after 17 laps - in the hot desert heat for a 3.5-second gap over Alonso, who was four-seconds ahead of Massa. Vettel's lead narrowed to 2.6 seconds by the halfway point. Alonso eventually edged Massa by 16 seconds. Senna's HRT car lasted 18 laps before its Cosworth engine blew out with the Spanish team failing to complete the race after almost not making the starting grid. Lotus was the only new team to finish with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli filling the last two places. Sauber driver Pedro De la Rosa's return after three years as a McLaren test driver ended after when he retired after 29 laps.

First Published: Mar 14, 2010 23:22 IST