MANAMA, Mar 12 (Reuters) Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso made a perfect start to the Formula One season with victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix today.
Seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, chasing his 85th win after taking a record-equalling pole position on an all-Ferrari front row, had to settle for second place after a thrilling battle with his young rival.
Alonso, the 24-year-old Spaniard who last year became Formula One's youngest champion, made sure of his ninth victory after emerging from his final pitstop just as the 37-year-old German was about to go past.
The two cars almost touched as they fought for the advantage, with Alonso holding firm to win by over a second and to start the season as he finished the last one, on top of the podium.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen finished third, a remarkable result for the Finn who had to carve through the field on a one-stop strategy after a suspension failure in Saturday's qualifying pitched him to the back of the grid.
Briton Jenson Button, a pre-race favourite for Honda, finished fourth and is still seeking his first grand prix win after 101 starts.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth for McLaren, ahead of Williams' Australian Mark Webber.
Rookie Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 world champion Keke, was seventh for Williams, becoming the 54th driver in the history of the sport to score on a race debut after overtaking Austrian Christian Klien's Red Bull on the last lap.
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