Flawless driving and a very quick Ferrari secured Fernando Alonso his 31st race victory in his 200th F1 start. The Spaniard crossed the finish line ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes). Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who made a late charge for the podium, was fourth, with Jenson Button (McLaren) rounding off the top five.
Vettel still leads the Drivers' World Championship ahead of Raikkonen and Alonso, but just three races into the season, there's still not much between them.
The start of the race saw pole-sitter Hamilton pull away cleanly, while Raikkonen lost two places to both Alonso's and Massa's Ferrari. Alonso soon started to hustle Hamilton for the lead, as the Briton failed to break the DRS window until it was enabled on the third lap. The Spaniard stormed past his former McLaren team mate in lap five and never looked back, despite having to relinquish the lead a few times to those on a different strategy. Alonso however, always looked like the man to beat, as a remarkably quick Ferrari and a stellar drive secured him the first win of the season.
Tyre degradation, just as in the previous two races, was again a big factor. The soft tyres did not hold up for more than 6-7 laps, thus forcing the frontrunners to pit early. As a result, Nico Hülkenberg (Sauber) led the race ahead of Vettel, who started from 9th after the pace of his car did not allow him to race for pole. The Red Bull pit crew once again proved their worth by sending Vettel on their way ahead of Hülkenberg, as the two Germans pitted simultaneously. There might have been a short moment of concern for Red Bull however, as Vettel rejoined the race right behind teammate Mark Webber, who had started the race from the pit lane after not having had enough fuel for a sample during qualifying.
However, as F1 fans around the world eagerly awaited another epic Red Bull duel, Webber made contact with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne. The Australian made a very optimistic move down the right on his Red Bull's sister car and Vergne basically had nowhere to go, spinning in the progress.
Webber's car had taken considerable damage, forcing him to cruise along the track on his way back to the pit lane. His luck ran from bad to worse when he lost his rear right wheel, forcing him to retire from the race on lap 18. At this stage of the race, there were a series of incidents, one of which resulted in Raikkonen damaging his nose and front wing after a collision with Sergio Perez (McLaren). The Finn was not bothered though, as he comfortably raced home to finish an impressive second. Hamilton's podium spot was in danger when Vettel made a late charge for third place. Five laps from the chequered flag the German put on the soft tyres and rapidly closed the gap on the Mercedes. In the end, it wasn't meant to be as he had to settle for fourth.
"It was a fantastic race for us from the start. There were no big problems and the tyre degradation was better than expected - it feels great," said a visibly delighted Alonso after the race in his press conference. "In the two races we've finished we have got second place and a victory so our start to the 2013 season has been very good. We are very optimistic for the rest of the season."
Top 10 results:
1. Fernando Alonso - Ferrari - 1:36:26.945
2. Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus - 1:36:37.113
3. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes - 1:36:39.267
4. Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull - 1:36:39.470
5. Jenson Button - McLaren -1:37:02.230
6. Felipe Massa - Ferrari - 1:37:07.772
7. Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso - 1:37:09.636
8. Paul di Resta - Force India - 1:37:18.029
9. Romain Grosjean - Lotus - 1:37:20.368
10. Nico Hülkenberg - Sauber - 1:37:23.543