Motor : Massa leads Ferrari 1-2 at Bahrain

Kubica finishes third; Hamilton and Alonso finish outside points

SAKHIR (Bahrain): Ferrari’s Felipe Massa jump-started his struggling Formula One campaign on Sunday by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix for his first victory of the season. Massa moved ahead of pole-sitter Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber at the start and then held off teammate and new overall leader Kimi Raikkonen to win by 3.339 seconds.

Kubica, who was second at the Malaysian GP, finished third ahead of teammate Nick Heidfeld as BMW Sauber filled out the second row.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen finished fifth while Lewis Hamilton was 13th.

Massa’s sixth career win put him into the championship hunt with 10 points.

“It was a sensational day,” Massa said. “We had a good start. The race was pretty difficult because I didn’t want to make any mistakes so I didn’t push the car hard, I just wanted to bring it home.”

Raikkonen leads

World champion Raikkonen, who collected his 50th podium, leads with 19 points, three more than Heidfeld. Hamilton, Kovalainen and Kubica all have 14 points.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, Mark Weber of Red Bull and Nico Rosberg of Williams filled out the top eight to collect the remaining points. Two-time World champion Fernando Alonso was ninth.

Massa led a subdued celebration with a couple of fist pumps atop his car before the traditional champagne ceremony.

“For sure it wasn’t very easy weeks, but that’s life,” said Massa, who retired from the opening two races for zero points coming into Bahrain. “You always have some bad days in your life and I had some bad days in my first two races.”

Massa had dominated the practice at the Bahrain International Circuit but a poor session in qualifying left him second at the start. But the Ferrari’s pace was never in doubt through the weekend.

“We’re doing well. The car was pretty perfect all weekend,” Raikkonen said.

Early move

Massa overtook Kubica immediately for the lead and Raikkonen slid into third after Hamilton was slow off the start. Kovalainen moved outside to take teammate Hamilton’s place on the grid.

Raikkonen didn’t take long to overtake Kubica, passing him on the outside at the second lap.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel was out by the fourth turn after getting hit from behind.

Hamilton, stuck in 10th behind Alonso, tried to get past his old teammate but instead went up over the back of the Spaniard’s Renault to lose his front wing. Hamilton pitted for a new front nose and a change of tyres. He would trail Massa by 50 seconds by the 22nd lap.

Ferrari was running 1-2 and Heidfeld put BMW Sauber 3-4 after going past Kovalainen from the inside.

Tough conditions

The increasing wind made driving difficult at the slick desert track, as a rule change has barred traction control this season.

Honda’s Jenson Button and David Coulthard of Red Bull were lapped by Massa after tangling up when Button attempted to cut through the inside.

Massa maintained a four-second lead over his teammate past the halfway mark of the 57-lap race.

Nelson Piquet Jr. retired after 35 laps alongside Button and Vettel with a gearbox problem.

Kubica moved temporarily into first again after 40 laps when Massa pitted for the second time, but the Polish driver was in the pit lane himself at the next chance to lose the lead.

All teams employed a two-stop pit strategy changing from soft tires to medium.

BMW Sauber took the constructors’ championship lead with 30 points. Ferrari has 29 and McLaren 28.

The results: 1. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1:31:06.970 secs, 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +3.3s, 3. Robert Kubica (BMW) +4.9s, 4. Nick Heidfeld (BMW) +8.4s, 5. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) +26.7s, 6. Jarno Trulli (Toyota) +41.3s, 7. Mark Webber (Red Bull) +45.4s, 8. Nico Rosberg (Williams) +55.8s, 9. Timo Glock (Toyota) +69.5s, 10. Fernando Alonso (Renault) +77.1s, 11. Rubens Barrichello (Honda) +77.8s, 12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) +1 lap, 13. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) +1 lap, 14. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) +1 lap, 15. Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) +1 lap, 16. Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri) +1 lap, 17. Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) +1 lap, 18. David Coulthard (Red Bull) +1 lap, 19. Adrian Sutil (Force India) +2 laps; Nelson Piquet (Renault) +17 laps (retd.), Jenson Button (Honda) +38 laps (retd.), Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) +57 laps (retd.).

Fastest lap: Heikki Kovalainen, 1:33.193 on lap 49.

Drivers’ standings: 1. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 19, 2. Nick Heidfeld (BMW) 16, 3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Robert Kubica (BMW) and Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) 14, 6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 10, 7. Jarno Trulli (Toyota) 8, 8. Nico Rosberg (Williams) 7, 9. Fernando Alonso (Renault) 6 and 10. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 4, 11. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) 3 and 12. Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) 2.

Constructors’ standings: 1. BMW 30, 2. Ferrari 29, 3. McLaren 28, 4. Williams 10, 5. Toyota 8, 6. Renault 6, 7. Red Bull 4 and 8. Toro Rosso 2. — Agencies

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