Alonso beats Schumacher in Bahrain

Fernando Alonso warned on Sunday that he is in no mood to give up his world driver’s crown without a fight by beating Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Spaniard made use of a perfect strategy from his Renault team to win by 1,2 seconds from pole-sitter Schumacher for his ninth formula-one victory.

Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, who started from the back of the grid, finished third, 19,3 seconds off the pace, in his McLaren-Mercedes.

”It was brilliant,” said Alonso. ”We didn’t have such a good qualifying but we had a perfect strategy and were lucky enough to get ahead of Michael at the pit stops.

”I was conservative at the start because the Michelin tyres were better in the start and I think the Bridgestone tyres were better at the end, and it worked.”

Schumacher led the 22-car field into the first corner, making a decisive first-corner defence of his position from his Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa.

The move cost Massa his momentum and he was passed at turn three by Alonso, who had started from the second row in the grid.

Behind them, Briton Jenson Button made a poor start and fell behind his Honda teammate Rubens Barrichello (33), of Brazil, and into sixth place.

As Schumacher extended his lead over Alonso to seven seconds by lap 15, 24-year-old Massa made an inauspicious Ferrari debut as he spun under braking at turn one on lap eight and missed Alonso by inches.

A subsequent pit stop dropped him to the back of the field, but he fought back to finish ninth.

Schumacher pitted from the lead on lap 15 and retained the position after an 8,2-second stop, but Alonso’s eight-second stop four laps later was enough to close the gap to only a few car lengths.

The pivotal moment came on lap 39, three laps after leader Schumacher had made his final stop. Alonso, who was now in the lead, rejoined alongside the Ferrari and muscled his rival out of the position to keep the top spot.

The gap remained at a second for the rest of the race, but seven-time champion Schumacher could do nothing about Alonso.

Schumacher said: ”If you said I would be second here last week, I would be happy because our testing was not so good. Obviously, if there is a chance to win, you want to take it, but I think it’s a good start.

”Obviously Fernando was a bit close when I came out of the pits, and it was quite exciting, but even though there were opportunities to pass with the back markers, Raikkonen finished ahead of Button, whose two-stop strategy dropped him to fourth. Montoya was fifth ahead of Williams’ Australian star Mark Webber.

”It was disappointing what happened yesterday [Saturday], so starting from the back meant it depended on the first few laps to see if I could score some points,” said Raikkonen.

Williams’ 20-year-old German debutant driver Nico Rosberg spun at the first corner and pitted at the end of the first lap, but recovered brilliantly to pass Red Bull’s Briton David Coulthard and Austria’s Christian Klien on the penultimate lap to finish seventh.

Barrichello endured a bad time as he lost third gear midway through the race and dropped to 15th overall, and both Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli struggled for pace, ending up 14th and 16th.

It was a dreadful maiden race for Midland F1 after Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro started from the pit lane after suffering a late driveshaft problem.

His Dutch teammate Christjan Albers retired at the end of lap one after sustaining damage at the first corner as a result of the clash between Rosberg and Heidfeld.

And fellow debutants Super Aguri Racing had a similarly disappointing debut as their Japanese debutant Yuji Ide was given a drive-through penalty when his mechanics failed to clear the grid after the 15-second board was shown prior to the formation lap.

He then hit one of his mechanics after turning into his pit box too quickly, and later retired. Teammate Takuma Sato did, however, make it to the finish in 18th place. — Sapa-AFP

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