Despite an early challenge from Michael Schumacher’s new Ferrari F2005, Fernando Alonso paced himself to victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, handing Renault its third win in as many grands prix.

Despite an early challenge from Michael Schumacher's new Ferrari F2005, Fernando Alonso paced himself to victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, handing Renault its third win in as many grands prix.


The French team's success marked the hundredth win for a Renault engine in Formula One, the twentieth victory for a Régie grand prix chassis, and the first time that the manufacturer had won three consecutive races as a works team.


On Monday, Alonso stopped short of pronouncing himself the title favourite: "To score 26 points out of 30 possible is brilliant, but we need to stay cautious: we have only done three races out of nineteen in a very long season. However, I think that if we stay competitive like we are, and if we can avoid mechanical problems, then we will be hard to beat."


The Spaniard, who also won the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, beat Toyota's Jarno Trulli and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen to the chequered flag to extend his lead in the driver's championship standings at the sweltering desert circuit of Sakhir.


Ferrari's gamble on an early début for their 2005 car failed to pay off. Rubens Barrichello's car was plagued by technical problems throughout the weekend and Schumacher, who had qualified in an encouraging second position on the gird, challenged Alonso in the early stages but retired with hydraulic failure after just 11 laps.


"It is obviously disappointing (to retire), but I prefer to look at the positive side of things," the German said. "This is the best decision we could have taken. I am confident we will fight back and we will be competitive in the coming races.


"The car is fast and we have three weeks before the next race which will make us more (competitive)," he added.


BAR Honda's Jenson Button retired at his final pit stop and Red Bull Racing veteran David Coulthard snatched eighth place on the last lap.


Button stalled the BAR while in eighth place and although the team finally managed to get the car restarted, he pulled off at the end of the pit lane for his third consecutive retirement.