2.10pm Good afternoon and welcome to our coverage of the opening grand prix of the 2010 season. First don't-expect-too-much quotes from Michael Schumacher: "The race will be difficult ...overtaking ...possible, but unlikely. The McLarens are too fast on the straights and the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls is too strong. The podium is not an unrealistic dream but it will be very tough."

2.20pm It's a hive of activity down in the garages. The cars will start rolling out in the next few minutes.

2.12pm We hear Ferrari have changed engines in both cars as a precautionary measure. Mike Gascoyne reports the briefings are over and the drivers have been sent to the cars. HRT's pit crew has been practising hard …they could be busy early on today.

2.14pm For those asking about the weather … it's a scorcher, probably the hottest of the three days, so that in the high 30s air temperature and touching 50 out on the track. If you want to ask any questions or send us your views, click here. "It's going to be tight in the first corner and very heavy … none of us have much experience of that," Michael Schumacher says.

2.28pm The big question will be over the tyres. All of the top ten were on soft tyres other than Adrain Sutil's Force India, so it's likely they will all have to come into the pits early as we have seen already the softs don't last long especially with the heavy fuel loads. Once they change they will be able to go much quicker. The rest will be able to change from qualifying so they will all be on hard tyres, and so can race for longer before pitting/ Confused?

2.32pm The fuelling of cars is almost complete - remember, no pits stops for fuel this season, so they'll all be starting with very heavy fuel loads … around 110kg heavier than at the starts last season. And given they drove yesterday on very low fuel loads, they'll have to be a lot of adjustments straight away. Experience will count.

2.33pm Defending world champion Jenson Button joins the track for the lap to the grid. Schumacher climbs into his Mercedes.

2.34pm Both Renaults head out. Timo Glock in the Virgin has almost completed a circuit.

2.35pm Most of the cars are now on the grid. "Here we are," chirp Ferrari. "After the engine change, both drivers did an installation lap to check everything on the cars." Aji emails: "Since this is the first race with very new regulations, there will be a tough start. I am just afraid that there will be a chaos during the start.. and the rest of the race will be unpredictable."

2.42pm Most of the cars are now on the grid, one or two appear to be in the pits but they'll have to be out of there in the next few minutes. The grid is awash with people. The Crown Prince has just said the extension to the track is to add character. Ask most of the drivers and it needs a lot more than a extra section to do that.

2.45pm The track temperature is beginning to drop - it was at a high of almost 50 but now into the mid 40s and it will be in the mid 30s by the end of the race. The pits are now closed and the brass band play the local national anthem.

2.48pm A Gulf Air plane - an Airbus 330 according to planespotter Laurence Edmondson - flies low over the circuit. "Less than 15 minutes to go and we're all set. A lot of hard work about to come to life<" says Mike Gascoyne.

2.51pm Red Bull's Christian Horner on the BBC: ""It's going to be a big challenge with the red cars just behind us. They can probably split their tactics so we will have to be careful, tyre wear will be crucial so we are going to have to rely on the drivers to give us a lot of information. It's difficult because this season we have no idea when people are going to stop, we will have no idea what the competitors are doing. It's all about brinkmanship."

2.53pm Ross Brawn: "Tyres … whoever can make the rear tyres last will have a strong performance."

2.54pm And now the wait is over. To take you through the Bahrain Grand Prix it will be ESPNF1's Laurence Edmondson. If you want to ask him any questions or send your views, click here.

2.56pm Welcome to Bahrain we're just four minutes away from the start now. The grid is full of cars and teams, all 24 cars have made it and we should be in for a very exciting race.

2.58pm Some concerns over the Ferrari engines this morning, both have been changed but there will be no grid penalty under the regulations.

2.59pm The grid clears and they are off on the warm up lap.

3.00pm All the cars away, no major problems for anyone. The drivers are weaving left and right to warn the tyres.

3.01pm It's reported a lot of drivers stayed off the grid in protest at Ecclestone's ban on their physios/bag carriers accompanying them with umbrellas.

3.03pm Coming through the final corner now and lining up on the grid. They want their tyre temps high and their engine temps low.

Lap 1

The lights go out and Vettel gets off to a good start

Webber's engine blows, everyone else ok.

Webber is still running but dropping through the field. It could well have been an overfill of oil burning off in the Red Bull.

At the front Vettel is getting away well.

Lap 2

So Vettel leads, followed by Alonso, Massa, Rosberg, and Hamilton.

Problems for Sutil, he's dropped to 22nd. Kubica also off falling back.

Chandhok has crashed, front wing ripped off the car. He was hoping for some mileage but is now out of the race.

Lap 3

Hamilton pressuring Rosberg, overtaking looks difficult on heavy tanks.

To prove the point Hulkenberg spins off chasing another place. He's back on the track now.

Di Grassi pulls off and into retirement.

Lap 4

Vettel now leads by 2.3 seconds over Alonso.

Hulkenberg pits to change tyres after his spin, opts for hard tyres.

Webber is now holding up in seventh 0.5 seconds off Schumacher in sixth. Red Bull not concerned with the smoke and he's not reported any problems

Lap 5

Hamilton and Rosberg is still the closest battle at the front. Sutil makes a move past Kovalainen at the back.

Hamilton will be hoping to use his straight line advantage to pass Rosberg.

Lap 6

"I hit a bump on a bit of track I'm not familiar with and went into a wall," reports Karun Chandhok.

So Vettel still leading by 2.1 seconds from Alonso who is 2.0 up on Massa.

Webber's gap to Schumacher is remaining constant at 0.8 seconds.

Lap 7

Vettel opens the gap to 2.5 to Alonso. He looks quite happy out at the front and has been very smooth all weekend.

So the new rules have done nothing to make it easier to follow the car in front - no surprise there. A new revision of the aero rules is needed for that.

Lap 8

Vettel eeking out another 0.3s on Alonso on the last lap.

Liuzzi complaining of understeer on a heavy fuel load. He is the highest running driver on hard tyres so could make up places before the end of the race. The super-soft tyres are holding up ok in the heat no pit stops yet.

Lap 9

Webber no closer to Schumacher this time through. Webber started slightly outside his grid box and there are some nervous faces in their garage.

Massa sets the fastest first sector yet, clearly the soft tyres still have more to give.

Force India report Sutil spun at the start which is why he slid from 10th to 21st on the first lap. That was probably in Webber's oil cloud.

Lap 10

Massa sets the fastest lap and closes within 1.9 seconds of Alonso. Kubica on a charge, has gone from 21st to 16th after that bad start.

Defending world champion Jenson Button is in eighth, 17.6 seconds off Vettel.

De la Rosa is holding up a whole train of cars including team-mate Kobayashi. Who makes a move and gets past.

Lap 11

Hamilton told to save his tyres because he can't get past Rosberg. Liuzzi is just 4.3 seconds off Button so could leap frog him in the tyre changes if Button falls into traffic when he changes his softs.

Lap 12

Vettel sets the fastest lap with a 2:02.318. The gap is now 3.5 seconds to Alonso. He could run away with this.

HRT ready for a pit stop.

Kobayashi in trouble and slows on the track.

Senna struggles to get going after a 9.2 second pit stop. And he comes out in front of Rosberg

Lap 13

Kubica pits for hard tyres comes out in 16th as Glock passes Kovalainen for 17th. A good solid move for position.

Lap 14

Vettel now 4.1 seconds in the lead at the front.

Petrov and Alguersuari pits. A wretched pit stop for Petrov. It seems the tyres weren't put on correctly or there were problems ingetting them off. he's still in the pits.

Lap 15

Kubica sets the fastest first sector on his new tyres. But he's back in 16th and way out of contention. Vettel making it look very easy.

Kubica converts his first sector into a fastest lap of 2:01.397.

Petrov's engine is off and the mechanics are checking the car. That looks like a retirement.

Lap 16

Hamilton pits as does Schumacher, both clean stops and they leave in the same order.

Lap 17

Alonso pits in the Ferrari. Clean stop and Rosberg is next for a change of tyres. Hamilton is ahead of Rosberg after that stop and moves up a place.

Webber, who also pitted, is the big loser he is now behind Button and Schumacher.

Glock retires

Lap 18

Vettel pits (4.0 second stop) and comes out ahead of Alonso. Massa's stop was 4.5 seconds.

Hamilton makes use of his new tyres, setting a fastest lap of 2:00.447.

Hamilton is now catching Barrichello for fifth, the Williams driver has yet to pit.

Lap 19

Hamilton passes Barrichello for fifth into turn one. A good move helped by McLaren's straight-line speed.

Senna retires with smoke billowing from the back. Probably an engine failure.

Ferrari reports: "Soft tyres are degrading as expected". And Massa sets a fastest lap on his new set of hards.

Lap 20

Barrichello pits and puts on soft tyres to make sure he uses both compounds. He will likely pit again before the end of the race.

Timo Glock lost the use of fifth gear and if they can fix it he may well go out again

Petrov says he ran wide over a kerb and damaged a suspension part that couldn't be repaired.

Lap 21

The last of the front runners to pit is Liuzzi, swapping hard tyres for soft. Rejoins in tenth behind Buemi who hasn't stopped.

The gap at the front is 3.3 seconds with Vettel still looking comfortable.

Lap 22

That gap at the front has dropped to 3.1 seconds, Alonso making some gains now with a new personal best.

Mike Gascoyne says the remaining Lotus "lost telemetry but no problems on the car"

Liuzzi gets past Buemi for ninth and now has some empty track to Webber in the Red Bull.

Lap 23

Lewis Hamilton's brakes are overheating, McLaren reports. They had a similar problem in qualifying.

Petrov on his Renault: "The car was brilliant to drive though and I was quicker than I thought I would be, it's disappointing to have to retire but these things happen."

Barrichello pases Buemi for the lead in turn one - Buemi is still on the same hard tyres he started on.

Lap 24

Alonso now has the gap at the front down to 2.7 seconds, he is chipping away at Vettel on this stint.

Webber closing on Button the gap is just 0.5 seconds.

Vettel is trying to respond to Alonso and is very fast in the middle sector.

Lap 25

Vettel adds 0.2 seconds to his lead on that last lap, he could be just mointoring the gap.

Buemi still on the same tyres, he must be one stopping, has Kubica all over him. And the Renault gets past at the top of the circuit.

Lap 26

Schumacher in sixth has been told he is not under threat from Button and Webber behind him.

Hamilton is 12.2 seconds off Vettel and the Ferraris. The McLaren is not on the pace of the front runners here in Bahrain.

Lap 27

Vettel comes up to lap Kovalainen. And the Lotus stays well out of the way of the front three.

Hamilton is happily ahead of Rosberg in the battle for fourth - the gap is 8.9 seconds.

Lap 28

Vettel must have made a mistake, the gap at the front is down to 2.2 seconds now. He lost 0.6 seconds on the last lap alone, it could have been in passing Kovalainen.

Vettel responds with the fastest middle sector yet and a personal best lap time. Gap back up to 2.4s.

Bruno Senna: "Some kind of hydraulic failure …the odds were always against us but it was a bit better than expected. Hopefully next race we can go longer."

Lap 29

Vettel has been told to save his tyres and to start thinking about the front lap adjuster - so maybe he is just toying with Alonso.

Alguersuari sets the fastest lap. He must have just made a pit stop.

Lap 30

Alonso sets the fastest lap, he is not on new tyres, and has closed the gap to 1.5 seconds. Very impressive. This race might just be about to get interesting.

Alonso pushing very hard and running wide into the final straight.

Lap 31

Alonso warning Vettel of his presence by pulling out of the Red Bull's slipstream. Alonso is sliding his way through the tight new section.

Alonso looks happy with the car on the limit.

Lap 32

Vettel responds with a personal best and ups the gap by about 0.2s. Alonso drops back by four tenths in the first sector, could have overheated his tyres.

Another 0.6s dropped by Alonso in the second sector.

Lap 33

And Vettel extends the gap to 2.2 seconds.

Massa told to save his engine - remember he changed it before the race. He might just settle for third now.

Lap 34

Alonso right back in the hunt. Just a second between them.

Vettel says he has a loss of power. Alonso all over the back of him and Vettel's engine sounds rough.

Now a chance, but Alonso will wait for turn one to make the move.

He doesn't even need to wait, goes through into the final corner.

Lap 35

Massa passes Vettel too, and Vettel didn't even try to defend.

So can Hamilton close the gap to Vettel? 9.0s is the gap with 14 laps remaining.

Lap 36

Alonso sets a 1:59.477 to celebrate his place at the front of the field.

Hamilton halves the gap to Vettel, just 4.5 seconds now.

Lap 37

Another fastest lap for Alonso - a 1:58.879 - really pushing now.

Hamilton is lining up Vettel, it should be easy for him to pass.

Lap 38

Hamilton passes Vettel with ease into turn one - the McLaren has the highest top speed on the grid with its inlet system.

Button is closing on Schumacher for sixth, the gap is just 1.0 second now.

Lap 39

The two Ferraris look very comfortable now, the gap to Hamilton from Massa is 8.9s.

Fourth placed Vettel is 14.3 seconds up on Rosberg with 10 laps remaining - he might just hold on.

Lap 40

Schumacher, Button and Webber are shaping up for a battle in the closing laps.

A rather nervous message from the Ferrari garage: "Now we need to bring the cars to the chequered flags"

Hamilton reports a vibration from the front of his car

Lap 41

Alonso is now comfortably ahead of Massa at the front - 7.9 seconds the gap - a formation finish for Ferrari.

Schumacher handling the gap to Button well.

Lap 42

Hamilton sets the fastest first sector but he won't catch Massa.

So we've seen one pit stop strategies on a track that is hard on tyres - it will be interesting to see if that is a common trend this season.

Lap 43

McLaren have reassured Hamilton all is well, it's just uneven wear and he should "go for it". And he is, setting his fastest lap.

Rosberg has the gap to Vettel down to 6.7 with seven laps remaining. He will definitely challenge Vettel and most likely pass him.

Lap 44

Hamilton still setting fastest first sectors - the fuel level will be very low now.

Schumacher told he could catch Vettel by race engineer Andy Shovlin.

Lap 45

Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley takes a very close look at Massa's car as it goes past. Meanwhile Alonso is 9.1 seconds ahead.

Lap 46

Alonso clocks a fastest lap - 1:58.287. Massa is struggling with the Ferrari, possibly a lose barge board - it's hard to see.

Jarno Trulli stays out in the Lotus after a 2:17 lap. He is two laps off the pace 17th and last place - but he's still running. "Waiting and sweating in garage," admits Lotus Rosberg just 2.3 seconds off Vettel now for fourth. Three laps remaining - it's going to be close - remember Rosberg is dealing with the turbulent air of that Red Bull on worn tyres.

Lap 47

The gap is now just a second between Vettel and Rosberg, will Vettel put up a fight?

Lap 48

Alonso starts the penultimate lap - the win is almost certainly his.

Vettel still holding off Rosberg.

Buemi is out with what looks like mechanical failure.

Lap 49

Alonso starts the final lap. Massa now 14.3 seconds off but is looking after his engine. Hamilton still third 8.0 seconds back.

Vettel looks set to keep Rosberg behind him.

And Alonso wins his first race for Ferrari, a very impressive result. Massa makes it a one-two for the Italian team and Hamilton takes a comfortable third.

Vettel hold fourth ahead of Rosberg, Schumacher, Button, Webber, Liuzzi and Barrichello.

Vettel pulls over once he crosses the line, there is no point in putting any extra strain on that Renault engine.

What a result for Ferrari who have stamped their mark on the season from the off. A disappointing day for Vettel who looked in charge until his engine lost power, but solid performances from the Mclarens and the Mercedes. At the other end of the field, Lotus must be delighted that both cars finished, but clearly a lot of work needed at the Virgin and HRT teams.

Alonso waves to the crowd after a very comfortable win in the end. The three drivers are on the podium for the national anthems and will be spraying the rosewater any second now … no champagne here, don't forget.

That's it from ESPNF1 as far as the Bahrain Grand Prix is concerned. We hope you have enjoyed our coverage and join us again in 12 days time when we are in Australia for the second race of the season.