MANAMA, March 14 – Two-times former champion Fernando Alonso marked his debut with Ferrari by leading home team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa in a resounding one-two triumph at Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.In a keenly-anticipated race including four champions, three new teams, five rookie drivers and new rules that banned mid-race refuelling, returning 41-year-old ‘red baron’ Michael Schumacher was left among the chasing pack and finished sixth.
It was the German legend’s first Formula One race after three years in retirement, having won a record seven drivers world titles, and he was beaten by his Mercedes team-mate and fellow-German Nico Rosberg, who came home fifth.
Briton Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, was third for McLaren, but his new team-mate, defending champion and compatriot Jenson Button, battled to take seventh.
Alonso, 28, who won the title twice with his former team Renault, delivered the 22nd win of his career – and his third in Bahrain – with a brilliantly-judged performance by preserving both his tyres and his engine on a sizzling hot day at the Sakhir circuit.
Driving with meticulous care, the Spaniard took full advantage of bad luck that hit German Sebastian Vettel when his Red Bull car suffered an exhaust failure and lost power dramatically after leading for the first 34 laps of the 49-laps contest.
Vettel, starting from his sixth pole, had led easily until then, but fell away and finished fourth.
His Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber came home eighth ahead of Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi for Force India and 10th placed final points-scorer Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello in a Williams.
For Ferrari, it was an emotional way to start the 60th anniversary season for the world championship – last year they were in disarray in the opening races.
For Alonso, it was a first win since he triumphed in Japan in 2008 for Renault.