Manama, March 12, 2006
Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso led home Ferrari's Michael Schumacher by a tiny 1.246s at the end of
the exciting 57 lap series-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir on Sunday. The Ferrari driver had led for most of
the first 36 laps, but when Alonso emerged from the pits on lap 40, he just got out in the lead, and was able to hold
on to the chequered flag. The pair were 18 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Kimi Raikkonen, who had started
at the back of the grid.
At the start, it was Michael Schumacher who jumped straight into the lead from teammate Felipe Massa, but Alonso
got past the second Ferrari when the Brazilian went wide at turn four. Michael led lap one from Alonso, Massa,
followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, then Rubens Barrichello (Honda) ahead of delayed teammate Jenson Button,
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella and Williams's Mark Webber. His teammate, Nico Rosberg, had to make a pit stop
after clashing with Nick Heidfeld.
Michael gradually eased away during the opening stages so that he had a 3.4s lead over Alonso on lap seven, the
Renault driver hounded all the way by Massa, but under braking for the first corner, Massa spun and his gyrating
car only just missed the Renault. Massa came in for a pit stop, but problems with airguns cost him some 40
seconds, which relegated him to 21st place.
Michael extended his lead to 6.2s by lap 14 from Alonso, when the Ferrari made its first pit stop. That allowed
Alonso into the lead, now around eight seconds ahead of Button, who had fought back to overtake Montoya on lap
11. Teammate Barrichello, however, would drop back with gearbox trouble, eventually losing third gear, but for the
moment, he was holding fourth place until he pitted on lap 16.
That put Schumacher into fourth place, ahead of Christian Klien, Webber and Raikkonen. Fisichella retired on lap
16 after initially suffering a loss of power and then a hydraulic failure.
Button pitted on lap 18 and Alonso on lap 19, which left Montoya in the lead, but he came in on lap 23. Michael now
led again but only by 1.1s from Alonso in second place. Then came a six second gap to Raikonnen who had yet to
make his single stop. Thirteen seconds further back was Montoya being pushed by Button, until the Honda driver
overtook on lap 29, just after half distance. David Coulthard was next from Webber and then Klien.
On lap 30, Raikkonen and Coulthard made their single stops, so that Michael still led but still pushed by Alonso.
Button was 21s behind in third place, then Montoya another three seconds down, followed by Webber and
Michael made his second stop on lap 36, partially due to have lost a lap's fuel allowance during qualifying when
one lap was under the 110 percent limit. It could have been crucial. When Alonso stopped three laps later, he just
emerged from the pits in the lead, with Michael fighting to overtake him, but just failing to do so.
For the next 18 laps, Michael harried the reigning World Champion but just couldn't find a way past. On lap 52,
Michael tried down the inside into the first corner but just couldn't quite make it and had to hold station to the
Button made his final stop on lap 40 and emerged just behind Raikkonen and would push him all the way to the
chequered flag but would just fail to pass. The pair slipped ahead of Montoya when the Colombian made his final
stop on lap 44. He finished fifth, The steady Webber finished sixth ahead of teammate Rosberg who came through
magnificently not only to set fastest lap - twice - but to overtake several other cars, including both Red Bull Racing-
Ferraris in the final stint. Klien salvaged eighth, just ahead of the recovered Massa.