Alonso wins Bahrain Grand Prix
By Jens Marx Mar 12, 2006, 15:18 GMT
Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso of Renault celebrates at the end of the Grand Prix of Bahrain on the Formula One racetrack near Manama, Bahrain, on Sunday 12 March 2006. Alonso won the Grand Prix and Schumacher took the second place. EPA/STEFAN ZAKLIN
Sachir, Bahrain - Defending world champion Fernando Alonso in a Renault won the opening Formula One race of the 2006 season in Bahrain Sunday to prove he won't give up his title without a fight.
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who started from pole position, took second place. Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren-Mercedes put in an incredible driving performance to finish third despite starting from the back of the grid.
Jenson Button took fourth place in a Honda while Juan Pablo Montoya finished fifth in the second McLaren.
Mark Webber took sixth in a Williams while team-mate Nico Rosberg made a sensational F1 debut to take seventh. Red Bull's Christian Klien occupied the final points placing in eighth.
Alonso, who started from fourth on the grid, completing the 57 laps of 5,412 kilometres for 308.238 kilometres in 1 hour 29 minutes 46.205 seconds.
The 24-year-old managed to move up to second by the end of the first lap ahead of Honda's Button and Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
'From there it was a little bit easy to think abut the race,' said Alonso.
Massa remained on the Spaniard's tail until the eighth lap when the Brazilian spun out. Massa subsequently made a visit to the pits for a tyre change but a technical problem while changing his back right tyre saw him lose over 30 seconds to drop out of contention.
Schumacher made the first of his pit stops on lap 15, returning in fourth place. Alonso pitted four laps later and came out behind the German.
Alonso's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella retired shortly after, suffering a catastrophic loss of power just as he did on his flying lap in Saturday qualifying.
Montoya, who started from fifth remained in front until the McLaren-Mercedes driver pitted on lap 23.
Meanwhile, the Colombian's team-mate Raikkonen had made his way from the back up to third until he pitted for the first and only time with 26 laps remaining, returning in sixth place.
Schumacher pitted for the final time on lap 35 while leading Alonso by less than a second and when the Renault driver pitted on lap 39 he returned less than a car length ahead of the Ferrari.
But Alonso held his track position going into turn one to take a lead he was never to relinquish.
'We were a similar pace,' admitted Alonso. 'It was very close but I came out in front of Michael.'
Raikkonen moved up to third when Montoya made his last pit stop on lap 44 and although he was pressurised by Honda's Button over the closing laps the Finn held on to secure an unlikely podium finish.
'I was disappointed with what happened yesterday,' said Raikkonen, referring to his crash in qualifying. 'It's nice to see that we were strong in the race.'
Schumacher was just happy to have a much more competitive car than last season.
'Reliable car, fast car and good for the rest of the season,' said the 37-year-old German.
Alonso, for his part, felt the race at the desert circuit in Bahrain had shown this year's championship will be a close-run affair between Renault, Ferrari, Honda and McLaren.
'There are four teams fighting for victories,' he said.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur