• Bahrain Grand Prix

Alonso leads Ferrari one-two as Vettel fades

ESPNF1 Staff
March 14, 2010

Driver quotes | How they fared | 'Now it's time to push' - Alonso

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari a perfect start to the season with a one-two in the heat of Bahrain, capitalising on the unreliability of the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, who looked to be in control until a spark plug failure cost him power and a podium finish.

Lewis Hamilton benefitted from Vettel's misfortune too, taking the third spot on the podium after a relatively uneventful race. The under-powered Red Bull did manage to hold on for fourth, keeping the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg at bay in the closing stages.

Michael Schumacher's return was fairly straight forward and he finished sixth, 3.9 seconds off his team-mate Rosberg and ahead of 2009 champion Jenson Button. After a disappointing qualifying, Button had a frustrating race and never looked capable of matching the pace of the front runners. However, the real loser at the front was Red Bull's Mark Webber, who started the race with smoke billowing from his Renault V8 as it burnt off excess oil in dramatic fashion. Although it wasn't a serious problem, things went from bad to worse for the Australian and he lost a further place to Button at the first pit stop.

Aside from Webber's smoke screen the start was remarkably straight forward considering all 24 cars were starting on 160 kilos of fuel and cold tyres. Alonso slipped ahead of Massa, the latter bogging down slightly from the dirty side of the track. Hamilton made a charge down the inside and got ahead of Massa into turn three, only to make a mistake up at turn four and fall behind both the Ferrari and Rosberg.

Meanwhile Vettel made a dream start and immediately pulled out a comfortable lead that he maintained through the first pit stops. Hamilton gained a place on Rosberg by changing his tyres one lap earlier and making use of the fresh rubber. The opening stint did little to support the argument for the ban on refuelling, as Hamilton chose to back off behind Rosberg and, just like in previous years although, waited for the first stop to get past.

Meanwhile Vettel looked comfortable at the front and appeared to be toying with Alonso, as the gap between the pair swung both ways by several tenths on each lap. Then disaster struck. A spark plug failure put the Red Bull down on power and the rough sounding RB6 was dispatched with ease by Alonso, Massa, and a few laps later, Hamilton. From that point onwards Alonso dominated and Massa dutifully backed off to give both his team-mate and his own engine breathing room.

Further down the field Rosberg closed on Vettel for fourth, but on his worn Bridgestones he couldn't close the gap in the Red Bull's turbulent air. Schumacher, Button and Webber looked in position for a battle in the closing stages but it never materialised. Tonio Liuzzi took two points in ninth after starting on the hard tyres, but never had a chance to challenge at the front. His team-mate Sutil may have done so given the opportunity, but he had a first-lap spin in Webber's oil slick and finished 12th after dropping right to the back of the field. Robert Kubica suffered a similar fate and finished eleventh. The final points position was scooped up by Williams' Rubens Barrichello.

Lotus proved to be the best of the new teams, with both cars finishing the grand prix, Kovalainen in 15th and Trulli a long way back and three laps down in 17th. Both Virgins retired, Lucas di Grassi very early on and Timo Glock midway through the race. HRT had a predictable short race. Karun Chandhok hit a bump on the track he said he didn't know was there and wiped the nose off his car in the barriers. Bruno Senna had a slightly more dignified end to the race as his HRT spluttered to a halt after 17 laps with what looked like engine failure.