|Bahrain F1 season-opener is a thriller
Some 40,000 race fans roared their approval, with millions more watching around the world, as Renault's reigning world champion Fernando Alonso staved off seven-time champion Michael Schumacher to win the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.
The season-opener was hailed as the best one yet to be held in Bahrain, high praise considering the FIA voted the country's inaugural race in 2004 the best of that season.
Bahrain International Circuit general manager Martin Whitaker was delighted with a thrilling race that featured plenty of overtaking and a result that was in doubt until the final lap.
"We have raised the bar in terms of the organisation and the spirit in which it is run. In my opinion we have got the best Grand Prix circuit in the world in terms of its architecture and technology," he said.
Schumacher led from the start as Alonso rose from fourth on the grid to second, and the Renault closed on to the tail of the Ferrari after their first stops.
Alonso took a narrow lead after a later final stop and held on to the end.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was third after starting from the back of the grid, ahead of Honda's Jenson Button.
As the race unfolded it became clear Schumacher had secured pole position by running less fuel in his Ferrari than Alonso had in his Renault.
Schumacher led from the start, while Alonso jumped up to second ahead of the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who he had passed on the first lap.
Alonso had a scare when Massa spun behind him on lap eight and nearly collided with the Renault at the first corner, and the Spaniard had to fight hard to keep Schumacher's lighter Ferrari in sight during the first stint.
Alonso made his first stop four laps later than Schumacher and rejoined nearly four seconds adrift of the Ferrari.
But he was on his tail within five laps, where he stayed until Schumacher pitted on lap 36.
Alonso had to lap two slower cars in the three laps before his pit stops, which gave Schumacher a chance.
The Renault exited the pits as the Ferrari came down the main straight and they headed into the first corner side by side.
But Alonso fought Schumacher off and pulled out a small lead over the rest of the lap. The two remained close together for the rest of the race, but Alonso had enough to hold the Ferrari off.
The previous day, Schumacher, who had a poor 2005 season, set a time of one minute 31.431 seconds for his 65th career pole, equalling Ayrton Senna's all-time record.
Bahrain Grand Prix result:
- Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault one hour 29 minutes 46.205 seconds
- Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1.246 seconds
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes at 19.360
- Jenson Button (GB) Honda 19.992
- Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 37.048
- Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 41.932
- Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:03.043
- Christian Klien (Aut) RedBull-Ferrari 1:06.771
- Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:09.907
- David Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Ferrari 1:15.541
- Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:25.997
- Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1 lap
- Scott Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1 lap
- Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1 lap
- Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1 lap
- Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1 lap
- Tiago Monteiro (Por) Midland-Toyota 2 laps
- Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 4 laps
R Yuji Ide (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 22 laps
R Jacques Villeneuve (Can) BMW Sauber 28 laps
R Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 36 laps
R Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland - Toyota 43 laps
Key: R = retired
Fastest lap: Rosberg, 1:32.408
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