F1 Race Results & Report: Ferrari 1-2 With Alonso on Top in Bahrain

What Happens When Reliability Is An Issue

9:58am EST — A triumphant Fernando Alonso won the 2010 season opening GP of Bahrain, with teammate Felipe Massa making it a Ferrari 1-2 after Sebastian Vettel had late-race exhaust issues that dropped him from the race lead to, ultimately, fourth place.  Lewis Hamilton finished third, as Nico Rosberg outpaced teammate Michael Schumacher to fifth.  Schumacher finished sixth, with Jenson Button close behind in seventh.  Of the new teams, only Lotus finished the race.

Vettel started on pole, in front of the Ferrari’s of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso after a quite sedate qualifying session (the F1B qualifying report can be found here).  Both Ferrari’s changed their engines before the race, “as a precaution,” according to Fernando Alonso in a Reuters article, “because of the heat and mechanically it’s going to be very demanding as well.”  Tenth-place starter Adrian Sutil was the only driver in the top ten to start on hard(er) tires.  Everyone behind him did as well.  Both HRT cars started on the pit lane.  Interestingly enough, many of the drivers did not hang out on the grid under umbrellas, as Bernie Ecclestone no longer allows their personal physios/umbrella people to stay with them.  As the first race with no re-fueling in years, tire strategy would be key, as would finally figuring out which teams have been sandbagging since testing in February.

Vettel got a good start as the lights went out, as the field got away quite heavily.  Webber appeared to lose his engine exiting into turn one from sixth position, as Alonso got around teammate Massa for second after Vettel.  Rosberg got around Hamilton, as Schumacher also made up ground with Webber’s issues.  Kubica dropped from ninth to twenty-first as Kovalainen moved up from 21st to 16th.  Red Bull waited in the pit, while Webber appeared to recover, moving back up to seventh.  In his and his team’s F1 debut, Chandhok had an off, damaged the front of the car, smashing the nose, and ended his race without finishing a lap.

Hulkenberg, while racing with de la Rosa, had quite a spin and slide (a “tank-slapper extraordinaire,” according to SPEED commentator David Hobbs) but continued while di Grassi also pulled off in the Virgin, ending the race for another new team.  The Hulk stopped for fresh tires and a compound change, fulfilling the tire requirements for his race, though with harsh tire degradations and heat in Bahrain, it would have been unlikely for the Williams to make the race with only one tire change.  He returned to the track in the last position, 22nd with forty-four laps remaining in the forty-nine lap race.

The top three stayed in contact, with about two seconds between them, while Hamilton was about a half second behind fourth place Rosberg in fifth, with Schumacher almost three seconds behind.  With race-distance fuel loads, the leaders were setting times of the HRT in qualifying, with the second lap the fastest of the race, set by leader Vettel.  Liuzzi, in 9th in the Force India, on about lap 7 was complaining over the radio of understeer in his quite heavy car, as the team attempted to reassure him.  Back in 20th, Trulli was also complaining of understeer, according to Mike Gascoyne, who also said “Jarno thinks he may have damaged the front wing on first lap.”

The Ferraris (for now, they have become like twins, with neither particularly standing out against the other) began to lose a bit of time to Vettel, even as Massa set race-fastest time of 2:02.494 on lap 9.  “I hit a bump and the car just bounced on the exit curve and I just went off,” said Chandhok of his race-ending off, after only five laps before the race began and about a lap and a half of the race.  Apparently the Virgin reliability technical gremlin struck again, as di Grassi stopped for suspected hydraulic issues.

Senna pitted on lap 12, with issues on the right front and a wobble while sitting on the jack, and issues finding a gear on his way out of the box.  Kubica also pitted, much better and much more quickly.  For some reason, the on-screen timing from the world feed was not showing the “pit” time, but the time from entering the pit lane, so the times appeared to be in the 17 second range.  Kobayashi also stopped in there, breaking up the inter-squad fight between the young driver and de la Rosa.  These opened the floodgates for stops, as Petrov and Alguersuari also came in, giving the tires quite a short shelf life, even the harder, medium compound both started the race on, though Petrov was quickly listed as retired, presumably because “the shim on the push rod,” according to former Benetton championship-winning mechanic Steve Matchett,  as teammate Kubica set the fastest lap of the race, the first into the 2:01s.  Hamilton and Schumacher both pitted, very quickly, with Hamilton leaving the pits first and likely having a fanboy moment with the thought of his hero Schumacher behind.

Alonso also pitted, on lap 16, a very quick stop as Rosberg and Button also stop, all with good strategy, as Hamilton came around before Rosberg, who led teammate Schumacher, as he has done much of the weekend.  Vettel and Massa also came in the next lap, with Vettel’s stop three tenths faster than Alonso’s, though Massa’s was two tenths slower than his teammate’s.  Meanwhile, some great dicing happened on-track between two Cosworth-powered cars, Kovalainen’s Lotus and Hulkenberg’s Williams, with the Hulk coming out the victor.  Also, Hamilton posted the race’s fastest lap at a 2:00.447.  Glock also retired with, presumably, the same hydraulic issues as his teammate, leaving no Virgin still racing [insert your favorite pun on that subject here].  Senna also retired on-track, so that made four new cars out, only the Lotuses still racing in 17th and 18th, though they had “lost telemetry but [had]  no problems on the car,” again according to Gascoyne.

Massa set the fastest lap as, at least through pitstops and retirements, the race became exciting for a bit.  Barrichello’s stop on lap 19 seemed to indicate a one-stop strategy, as he switched to the super-soft compound.  Once Liuzzi pitted on lap 20, only the Lotuses and Sebastien Buemi had not stopped.  At nearly halfway, the top five runners were: Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg.  Champions Schumacher and Button were in sixth and seventh, respectively.  Webber had dropped down to 8th after his odd smoke cloud in turn 1.  On lap 22 Gascoyne continued to hand out strategy on Twitter like candy, noting that Lotus was “Looking to stop jarno a bit earlier and switch to options.”  Meanwhile, McLaren team radio suggested that while Button was “catching Michael ahead,” he should also look after his tires as they were attempting to manage race distance on them.

By the halfway point, Vettel had maintained about a three second lead over Alonso.  Buemi was the last to stop in his Toro Rosso, on lap 25.  Ferrari, quite truthfully, was confident, writing that they were “still in the position to attack the first place.”  Teammate Alguersuari came in for his second stop as Massa was only 1.4 seconds behind teammate Alonso, who remained about two behind leader Vettel.

At this point in the race, to be perfectly honest, it was time to start the kettle for a pot of tea for the second half, as all the runners seemed to have settled down before the possibility of another stop for fresh tires and fast laps on low fuel.  Then, Alonso set fastest lap, a 1:69.583.  He was then only 1.5 seconds behind Vettel.  It was shortened by another 4 tenths on the next lap, the gap down to 1.1 with 19 laps to go.  Vettel responded, somewhat, gaining back 1 tenth, as his team suggested to him on the radio that Massa was running the same times as he, specifically telling Vettel that Alonso was likely to burn up his tires.  Kovalainen stopped again, with a “flap adjustment for heikki and option tyres,” according to Lotus on Twitter.

By lap 32, Alonso had backed off, corroborating Red Bull’s radio idea, and leaving Vettel with a 2.2 second lead, and Massa 1.6 behind his teammate, with Rob Smedley reminding his driver to save the engine as it’s for “the other races.”  Meanwhile, Vettel was radioing that something was broken and he was losing power, with a sick-sounding engine.  The gap dropped visibly, with Alonso looking quite dicey just behind.  Alonso quickly passed Vettel for the lead, as Massa also took second from him.  The men in the Red Bull pits looked absolutely gutted, as one would presume.  The Ferrari Twitter account provided a succinct summation, “Helped by Vettel`s problem we are 1-2.”  Alonso then set a race fastest lap, 1:59.477, with fourteen laps to go.  Meanwhile, Hamilton was picking up multiple seconds on Vettel each lap.  Alonso then improved, dropping into the 1:58s.  His presumably clear race to the win might only be marred by tire degradation or a charging teammate at this point in the race.  Red Bull, according to the radio transmissions, thought that the exhaust failed on Vettel’s car, as Hamilton took fourth from him as well.  Thank you, Captain Obvious in the Ferrari Garage, as the Twitter accountant tweeted, with twelve laps to go, “Now we need to bring the cars to the chequered flags.”

With ten laps to go, Alonso led Massa by over five seconds, with Hamilton in third, Vettel with a cushion over Rosberg in fourth and fifth, respectively, while 7th place Jenson Button chased down 6th place Schumacher.  Webber, Liuzzi, and Barrichello rounded out the top ten.  Vettel’s pace would put him with the Lotuses, three seconds slower than the rest of the field.  There was a small concern as Hamilton radioed about a vibration at the front, but he kept setting fast laps, including a race fastest sector 1 time.  Soon enough, Alonso had nearly nine seconds on Massa with the latter protecting his car.    With six laps left, Vettel was just under seven seconds ahead of Rosberg, but lapping two seconds slower than the German.

With five laps to go, Rob Smedley, Massa’s engineer, took a very good look at the car on its way past, and a replay showed attention by the team to the right front bargeboard on their TV screens, with a snap that had plagued Massa some corners earlier.  Alonso set yet another fastest lap.  Even with the tire degradation, the lower fuel levels should encourage such fast laps at the end throughout the season.  At the very back, Trulli, with hydraulic issues, was lapping really quite slowly, in the 2:28s, but looked to finish the race with teammate Kovalainen, the only two new teams to do so.  Buemi retired from a fight with teammate Alguersuari as Rosberg valiantly attempted to catch up and overtake Vettel.

In the end, it was Alonso leading Massa by sixteen seconds, while Vettel managed to hold onto fourth, only to stop on the cool-down lap, as did Trulli with his hydraulic issues.  None of the Saubers, Virgins, and HRTs finished the race, and the world champions in the field all finished in the top seven.  There you have it, the first race of the 2010 season over, with a triumphant Spaniard on the top step of the podium and a Ferrari 1-2.

Final Positions for the 2010 GP of Bahrain:
1. Fernando Alonso
2. Felipe Massa +16.0
3. Lewis Hamilton +23.1
4. Sebastian Vettel +38.7
5. Nico Rosberg +40.2
6. Michael Schumacher +44.1
7. Jenson Button +45.2
8. Mark Webber +46.3
9. Tonio Liuzzi +53.0
10. Rubens Barrichello +62.4
11. Robert Kubica +69.0
12. Adrian Sutil +82.9
13. Jaime Alguersuari +92.6
14. Nico Hulkenberg +1L
15. Heikki Kovalainen +2L
16. Sebastien Buemi +3L
17. Jarno Trulli +3L
Pedro de la Rosa
Bruno Senna
Timo Glock
Vitaly Petrov
Kamui Kobayashi
Lucas di Grassi
Karun Chandhok


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