FERNANDO ALONSO enjoyed the perfect debut for Ferrari after he led team-mate Felipe Massa to a stunning one-two in a thrilling season opener in Bahrain.
The Ferrari pair coasted by the Red Bull of pole-setter Sebastian Vettel after the German suffered a spark plug failure in the latter stages.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton also took advantage to steal a podium spot from Vettel, who just managed to hold off the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher to finish fourth.
Schumacher, in his first race back from retirement, showed glimpses of his resilient former self to hold off the McLaren of world champion Jenson Button to finish sixth.
Alonso’s victory – the 22nd of his career and third at the Sakhir circuit – served as a true statement of intent from the Ferrari team in what’s being billed as the closest championship for many years.
And the Spaniard couldn’t hide his delight when reflecting on a “very special day” which saw him become the first F1 driver to claim a winning 25 points under the new scoring system.
“It’s special even more for Ferrari with the history of the team,” he said. “There is no better way to start the relationship. It’s the best team in the world.
“But we’ve done nothing so far. It’s only the first race, but this is credit to the people in Italy, the mechanics and president [Luca] Di Montezemolo. This result is something very positive, and is great for the rest of the season.”
Vettel, meanwhile, was left to reflect on what might have been after dominating the race in the early stages, only to suddenly lose power and look on helplessly as Alonso and Massa ghosted past him on lap 34 of the 49-lap race.“It’s a pity, but what can you do?” Vettel said. “Overall it’s a positive. We were one of the quickest, we had very good control of the race and were on top of the strategy.”
Hamilton, too, was delighted with his third place, admitting: “It’s more than we expected this weekend.”