Fernando Alonso led home a Ferrari one-two in the Formula One season-opener in Bahrain which never lived up to the pre-race hype.
The return of Michael Schumacher had generated excitement like rarely before in the sport and new rules such as a refuelling ban were to make racing more exciting.
Instead, Alonso handily won from Felipe Massa on Sunday after Red Bull pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel suffered engine problems which dropped him to fourth place from what was a comfortable lead.
Schumacher finished sixth in a procession-like race.
British daily The Guardian on Monday spoke of an “unsatisfactory start to the most eagerly anticipated season for years” as drivers had to look after their tyres in heavy cars which along with the new course design in Sakhir led to little action.
The Times struck a similar note: “Huge changes in the regulations were supposed to help level the playing field and introduce a wider window of opportunity for drivers to race each other, using that mysterious manoeuvre occasionally seen called overtaking. Not here in Bahrain on a dreary 6.3km circuit that neutered any possibility of excitement.” Germany’s Bild named the race “a Sunday afternoon stroll” and Red Bull’s Mark Webber was quoted as speaking of a “boring race” via team radio. Schumacher said: “The start was the most interesting part. From then on it was the procession that had been expected. There are a few fights in the first lap, then it somehow ends. We can’t get to close to the car in front of us in order not to overheat the car.” However, the race did show that Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren have the early pace while Schumacher and his Mercedes team have some homework to do.
The 2005 and 2006 world chhampion Alonso was delighted about the dream start in his Ferrari debut, and so was Massa about second place in the first race since his life-threatening crash in Hungary in July 2009.
“A very special day for me. It is even more special with Ferrari with all the history behind the team and all the expectations a driver has when he drives for Ferrari. There is no better way to start the relationship,” said Alonso.
Even though Vettel would have won if the car had help up, Ferrari are reaping early benefits from giving up a dismal 2009 campaign midway through it and concentrating on development of the 2010 model.
The Italian media was naturally ecstatic on Monday.
“Magica Ferrari ... Fernando the great, what a phantastic debut.
This is the start of a new Ferrari era,” said la Gazzetta dello Sport. Tuttosport said: “What a rebirth ... A new myth is born.” The morale-boosting one-two finish at the season-opener was Ferrari’s first since Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in 2004. That result paved the way to one of the most lopsided F1 seasons as Schumacher won 13 of 18 races (12 of the first 13) and clinched the title after 14 races. Ferrari even took the constructors’ crown after 13 races.