If not for a broken exhaust Sebastien Vettel would've cruised to a dominant flag-to-flag win from pole. Instead Fernando Alonso joined fellow former F1 champions Juan Manuel Fangio, Nigel Mansell, and Kimi Raikkonen as drivers who've won in their first race for Ferrari. Felipe Massa finished 2nd to complete the Ferrari 1-2 while Vettel managed to salvage 4th.
Massa had qualified on the front row in 2nd while Alonso was 3rd but the two-time champ managed to pass him on the restart and then it was a matter of passing an ailing Vettel for his 22nd career Formula 1 victory. 16 of the last 20 championships were won by the driver who won the first race of the season, but one of those was in 2005 when Giancarlo Fisichella won but Renault teammate Fernando Alonso won the championship.
Everyone was wondering how the new rules would affect the race but Bahrain turned out to be a bit of a snoozer. Despite the hot conditions tire degradation was never much of a factor so it turned into a 1-stop race for everybody. It's still hard to pass and the new section that was added didn't help matters so the best way to make a pass is through pit stops and with only one... well the most exciting part of the last half of the race was the question of whether Vettel would finish the race. Hopefully Bridgestone will go even softer with the tires so tire wear's more of a factor.
It was a great return for Felipe Massa after he missed the 2nd half of last season because of his head/eye injuries at Hungary. It looks like he's back to 100% which is great. But is 100% Massa good enough to beat Alonso? It's just one race but Alonso beat Massa by 16 seconds. There was fuel/engine conservation in play by the end but it's still a big lead to put over your teammate.
Lewis Hamilton finished 3rd and said he would've been closer to the Ferrari's and Red Bull if he hadn't been held up by Nico Rosberg in the first stint of the race. He managed to get by Rosberg after pitting first for tires and then Rosberg's slow pit stop allowed Hamilton to easily leap-frog him. Hamilton said he thinks Mclaren's a few tenths off but that's the fun of in-season car development, a couple races later and Mclaren could be finishing 1-4. The 4'd be Button who finished 22 seconds behind Hamilton here at Bahrain. It's only one race but Button's supposed advantage of better tire management compared to Hamilton didn't come into play and Hamilton was simply better throughout the weekend. Button's going to need to pick it up over the season or else his move to Mclaren will end up being the huge mistake everyone thinks it's going to be.
Michael Schumacher made his return to F1 and ended up 6th. Not bad but his teammate Nico Rosberg was 5th and was ahead of Schumacher for the entire race. That being said Rosberg's been racing for the last 3 seasons while Schumacher's been getting injured on motorcycles so I thought Schumi did a good job of being as close as he was. Also it appeared that Mercedes was the 4th best team this race so the overall result was still good, beating Button and Webber.
Speaking of Webber, I know there's some ingenious minds in the F1 paddock and a lot of Brits but smoke screens? Has James Bond technology invaded F1? lol
I think we all thought Webber had blown an engine on the start when his car started billowing smoke but apparently it was just oil or something because he continued to an uneventful 8th place finish, worst of the top 4 teams. The smoke screen was a big help though, Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil started 9th and 10th but got tangled up and spun each other after driving through the smoke. They had started the race on the harder tire compound, hoping that they could go a lot farther on the first stint than the guys ahead of them but everyone only made 1 stop anyways so it probably wouldn't have helped much.
New to 2010 is that the top 10 finishers score points compared to 8 the previous few seasons. Tonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barrichello finished 9th and 10th so they scored 2 and 1 points respectively.
Nico Hulkenberg was the best of the rookies in 14th, mostly by default because none of the rest of them finished. The 2009 GP2 champion had a rough first race after spinning early and being off the pace the rest of the way.
Heikki Kovalainen was not only the highest finishing of any of the drivers for the new teams but also the only one to finish. HRT had struggled just to make it to the grid and it showed with Chandhok crashing on just his 2nd timed lap on track of the entire race weekend while teammate Senna retired with mechanical problems. Virgin wasn't any better as hydraulics and a gearbox sat both di Grassi and Glock respectively. Both teams only completed 18 laps each. Meanwhile Lotus completed 93 of a possible 98 laps between Heikki and Jarno Trulli which was absolutely huge for them; without testing these teams need to complete all the laps they can over the race weekends.
Kovalainen's fastest lap was the last lap of the race, a 2:02.701 that was 4.4 seconds off of the fastest lap of the race set by Fernando Alonso. He had been 7.2 seconds off in 1st practice, 5.4 off in 2nd practice, 5.6 off in Saturday practice and 6.2 seconds off of Sebastien Vettel's pole time in qualifying.
The next race is in Melbourne, Australia in two weeks. Teams will get a weekend off to work on developing their cars so the pecking order in Australia could be different; the top 4 teams of Mercedes, Red Bull, Mclaren and Ferrari were seen as the title contenders coming in and it was reinforced in Bahrain as they took the top 8 positions so things could change race-to-race. The on-track product was pretty boring but the title battle looks to be intense for the season.
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