Alonso wins in Bahrain, as the first round promises a superb 2006 in prospect
The 2006 season burst into sensational life in Bahrain this afternoon, as champions past and present, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, fought out a tense duel which resulted in victory for the Spaniard by only 1.246s.
It was Schumacher who led away at the start, chased by team mate Felipe Massa who held off Alonso’s challenge into the first turn. Alonso squeezed ahead before the end of the lap, however, and then had a narrow escape on the eighth lap when Massa spun under braking there and actually overtook the Renault while going sideways. Alonso braked hard in successful avoidance and continued his pursuit of the leading 248 F1.
Schumacher pitted for fuel after 15 laps, while Fernando went four laps further. However, that was not quite enough to earn him the lead as Michael had opened up a bit of a gap. They resumed their fight all over again, moving back to first and second places by lap 24 once Juan Pablo Montoya had finally refuelled his McLaren after a 23-lap stint.
This time the Ferrari went until lap 36, the Renault until 39, and that proved to be the turning point of the race. Now Alonso got out of the pits ahead of the German, but it was nip and tuck as they went side-by-side through Turn One. Alonso kept his nerve and emerged in front, and then made sure he avoided any errors for the remainder of the nail-biting race. One slip, however, and the order could easily have been reversed.
It could scarcely have been a more exciting race with which to start the season, and the auguries for a four-way fight between Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Honda look excellent.