The opening round of the 2010 Formula 1 Season was held at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, hosting the first round for the first time since 2006, and running on the full endurance 6.299KM layout of the circuit for the first and only time.
It was the first Formula 1 race since the banning of refuelling, and was the first time that the stewards were assisted by a former driver, which in this case was Frenchman Alain Prost. It was also the first time we saw the current points scoring system of 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1.
2009 World Drivers’ champion Jenson Button had moved to McLaren to partner Lewis Hamilton, having taken Brawn GP to the title. Brawn themselves had been taken over, with Mercedes coming into the sport as a constructor for the first time since 1955, and saw Nico Rosberg switch from Williams and seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher return to the sport after a three-year hiatus.
Felipe Massa was a welcome returnee to the sport as well, with the Brazilian returning to his Ferrari drive for the first time since his head injury suffered in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
We also saw three new teams arrive on the scene, with Hispania, Virgin Racing and Team Lotus all appearing for the first time, with Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok (both Hispania) and Lucas di Grassi (Virgin) all making their F1 debuts for the new teams alongside relative veterans Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen (both Lotus) and Timo Glock (Virgin).
Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov were also debutants in Bahrain for Williams and Renault respectively, with Petrov becoming the first ever Formula 1 driver from Russia.
Qualifying saw Sebastian Vettel take pole position for Red Bull Racing, just over a tenth of a second clear of Massa, while Fernando Alonso, on his first outing for Ferrari after switching over from Renault was third, with Hamilton fourth.
Rosberg was fifth ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull, while Schumacher’s return saw him qualify seventh just ahead of reigning champion Button.
The size of the task for the new teams on the grid was seen for the first time, with Chandhok getting out on track for his first laps in the Hispania during qualifying, and was more than ten seconds slower than the fastest time of the session.
Vettel converted his pole position into the race lead at the start, but team-mate Webber’s engine released some oil smoke that saw both Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil spin on the opening lap, although all drivers were able to continue, including Webber.
Alonso jumped ahead of Massa at the start, with Rosberg getting ahead of Hamilton and Schumacher of Webber, before Chandhok became the first retirement of the season when he crashed after hitting a bump he had not known about, having had such little running throughout the weekend.
The opening seventeen laps saw di Grassi (hydraulics), Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber (engine), Petrov (suspension), Glock (gearbox) and Senna (airbox) retire, while Pedro de la Rosa retired the second Sauber on lap twenty-eight with another hydraulics problem.
It was all status quo at the front until after the single round of pit stops around mid-distance, with Vettel around two seconds ahead of Alonso, with Massa a couple of seconds further back on his team-mate. During the pit stops, Hamilton got back ahead of Rosberg, while Button climbed above Webber into seventh.
After the pit stops however, it all began to go wrong for race leader Vettel, who began to slow as a spark plug issue began to surface, and it was not long before Alonso was able to pass the German and take the lead for the first time of a Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver.
Team-mate Massa soon followed into second place, with Vettel ultimately dropping down to fourth at the flag behind Hamilton but ahead of Rosberg and Schumacher.
Alonso held on for the victory, and thus became the sixth driver to score a win for Ferrari on the first time of asking after Juan Manuel Fangio, Giancarlo Baghetti, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen.
It was also a Ferrari 1-2 with Massa just over sixteen seconds behind in second place, with Hamilton’s McLaren a further seven seconds back in third.
Vettel, Rosberg and Schumacher were followed home in seventh by Button, with Webber eighth in the second Red Bull, while Vitantonio Liuzzi took ninth for Force India ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the Williams, who took the final point on offer.
After the early retirements of both Hispania and Virgin drivers, the Team Lotus drivers were both classified as finishes, although only Kovalainen crossed the finish line while Trulli suffered another hydraulics problem three laps from the end of the forty-nine lap race.
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix Race Result (Top 10)
|4||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Red Bull-Renault||+38.799s|
|8||6||Mark Webber||AUS||Red Bull-Renault||+46.360s|
|9||15||Vitantonio Liuzzi||ITA||Force India-Mercedes||+53.008s|