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Sun 14 Mar 2010 05:41 PM

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Alonso wins Bahrain Grand Prix

Spaniard Fernando Alonso holds off Massa and Hamilton to claim glory in season-opening race.

Alonso wins Bahrain Grand Prix
VICTORY: Spaniard Fernando Alonso celebrates victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Getty Images)

Fernando Alonso won the season-opening Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix and led a Ferrari one-two in a dream debut with the Italian glamour team on Sunday.

In a race led for more than two thirds of the distance by Germany's Sebastian Vettel before the Red Bull slowed and was reeled in, the Spaniard laid down a marker for the season with his 22nd career victory.

"There is no better way to start the relationship," declared the double world champion after collecting the winner's trophy and a bottle of non-alcoholic local fizz. "I am with the best team in the world."

Brazilian Felipe Massa was overtaken by Alonso at the first corner and finished runner-up, 16 seconds behind, on his race return from life-threatening head injuries suffered in Hungary last July.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, completed the podium for McLaren, 23.1 behind Alonso, with Vettel slipping to fourth after starting on pole.

"It's a pity but what can you do. All in all it's been positive all weekend apart from the failure," said Vettel.

"Everything was running smoothly, but I lost power with about 20 laps to go, we are not sure what it was yet, but it wasn't good. Luckily I could continue and finish fourth but we should have won really."

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, making a comeback at the age of 41 and after three years away, was sixth for Mercedes and one place behind fellow-German team mate Nico Rosberg.

The former Ferrari ace said his race was as good as it could have been.

"Overtaking here is impossible and that is the action we are going to have with this environment of race strategy," he told television reporters.

It was Alonso's first triumph since he won the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix for Renault and he weaved his car jubilantly across the track as he approached the chequered flag without a rival in sight.

"We only won the first race but to come first and second is the result that all the guys at Maranello and at the track deserved," he told a news conference.

"I am very optimistic for the rest of the season," added the Spaniard, who went on to win the title in both the years that he has previously won in Bahrain.

Ferrari's first one-two finish since France in June 2008 also ended a run of three wins in a row by Renault-powered Red Bull, last year's overall runners-up.

With no refuelling allowed and after racing in searing temperatures at the newly-extended desert circuit, Alonso collected 25 points for the win under a scoring system that now rewards the top 10 finishers.

After parking up, the Spaniard stood on the car and celebrated -- punching the air and beating his chest before hugging mechanics.

In a race low on thrills and spills and with little overtaking as cars burned through their heavy fuel loads, world champion Jenson Button made a faltering start to the defence of his title with seventh place on his McLaren debut.

Malaysian-owned Lotus, their exalted name returning to the sport after a 16-year absence, proved to be the best of the three all-new teams and the only ones with a car still running at the finish.

Finland's Heikki Kovalainen was 15th, two laps down, and Italian Jarno Trulli 17th and last of those classified.

"What an amazing day. Lotus is back," said team boss Tony Fernandes.

India's Karun Chandhok retired on the second lap on his debut for the Hispania (HRT) team while Brazilian team mate Bruno Senna retired on the 19th.

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