Fernando Alonso admitted it was a special feeling to join the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen in winning on his F1 debut for Ferrari in Bahrain.
The Spaniard headed into the first round of the year as many people’s tip for victory as he chased his first win since Japan 2008, but had to settle for second on the grid behind Sebastian Vettel and team-mate Felipe Massa.
With Ferrari having completed a precautionary engine change on both cars ahead of the race, Alonso managed to get ahead of Massa off the start and then benefitted from Vettel’s exhaust issues to take the lead later in the race.
From there, Alonso produced a series of impressive laps to pull away from Massa for a comfortable victory and he admitted to being delighted at a winning start to the latest phase of his career.
“I want to dedicate this victory to President di Montezemolo, who believed in me and to our mechanics who did a really great job when they changed the engine on my car in a very short time,” he said. “Jumping onto the top step of the podium was a special feeling and I hope I have matched the expectations of the whole team. We worked so much this winter and now we are beginning to see the results of that.
“The first races of the season are very important: we must get to the European part of the year with a lot of points in the bag and a high level of understanding of how the tyres work at various types of track. The key to winning will be to continue to develop the car race by race.
“On the harder tyres, we went very well, but with the softer ones, I was struggling a bit to stay close to Vettel. I was planning to attack in the final ten laps, but luck gave me a hand: you always need a bit in every race. At the start, I got away well, making the most of being on the clean side of the track and I managed to pass Felipe, going for a space that was big enough to pull off the move without any risk. Then I was lucky not to have any problems with the car, while my team-mate had a more difficult time and had to ease up a bit.
“Now it’s time to think about Australia. We will see who has the best car at that track, but I think the four top teams will all be in the fight.”