(CNN) -- Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso made the perfect start to his Ferrari career with victory in Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Spaniard took advantage of mechanical problems suffered by Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull to lead home Felipe Massa in a Ferrari 1-2, while seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher also finished in the points with a sixth-place finish in his first race since ending his three-year retirement.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, claimed third place while last season's runner-up and pole-sitter Vettel managed to hang on for fourth despite his exhaust failure near the end of lap 34 of 49.
Schumacher's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was fifth, while reigning world champion Jenson Button finished seventh for McLaren in a race that he won last year.
In the previous six years that the race has been held, the winner has gone on to claim the drivers' crown.
Schumacher did so after winning the inaugural event in 2004, while Alonso did so in 2005 and 2006.
Massa, making his first F1 race outing since his horror accident in Hungary last July, was the victor in 2007 and 2008 -- when he finished second overall behind Hamilton.
Under the new points system for this season, Alonso earned 25 points to be seven clear of Massa as Ferrari made a big start in trying to eradicate memories of last year's poor season.
The Italian marque already have a 22-point lead over old rivals McLaren, who also struggled last year, with Mercedes third on 18.
The race marked the introduction of a raft of rule changes, with refueling during the race banned for the first time since 1993.
With the car weight limits raised to facilitate larger fuel tanks, race strategy has become more tactical as teams seek to conserve tires and pit stops become fewer and shorter.
All eyes were on former Ferrari star Schumacher, who qualified in seventh place, but it was the 41-year-old German's younger compatriot Vettel who seemed set to place an early benchmark for 2010.
He led Alonso by more than five seconds at his pit stop, but that was trimmed to three soon after and then Vettel could do nothing as his Red Bull suddenly lost power.
Alonso pounced and went on to finish 16 seconds clear of Brazilian Massa, who had to conserve fuel due to temperature problems in his cockpit, with British driver Hamilton another seven seconds back.
Vettel held off the late charge of Rosberg, who was four seconds ahead of his legendary teammate to give Mercedes by far the best results of the four new teams on the grid.
Button, who left world champions Brawn at the end of last year following their takeover by Mercedes, was a second behind Schumacher with Australian Webber close behind him.
Schumacher, who had been set to replace the injured Massa at Ferrari last season until a lingering neck injury ended his first comeback attempt, was happy with his opening effort for Mercedes.
"After three years away, I'm happy to say that I had fun out there today, especially at the beginning with the good start that I had," he said.
"I can live very well with sixth position, and it gives both me and the team a good base to make progress. I have every confidence that we will improve the car. We all know that we have some way to go, but we will get there. The season is long."
Vitantonio Liuzzi earned two points for the Mercedes-powered Force India team with ninth, and former Brawn driver Rubens Barrichello took the final point with 10th on debut for Williams.
Lotus was the next best of the new teams, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing 15th and Jarno Trulli 17th -- the last of the entered drivers to register a placing despite completing only 46 laps.
Karun Chandhok lasted only one lap before crashing while his HRT teammate Bruno Senna managed 17 before his engine gave out.
BMW Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi both suffered hydraulics problems, while Virgin's Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi had early finishes due to mechanical problems.
Renault's Vitaly Petrov, the first Russian to drive in F1, made an encouraging start but did not return after his pit stop on the 13th lap due to a suspected suspension problem.