Sergio Perez has won the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain followed by Ocon and Stroll as the Mercedes-AMG’s race went from bad to worse for both George Russell and Valterri Bottas. It's the first time a Mexican wins a Formula 1 race since 1970.
It’s a podium we’ve never seen before in Formula 1 as Perez stepped onto the top step for the first time and Ocon taking his first 2nd place. It all came about in spectacularly unpredictable fashion.
For the 2nd time in just as many races in Bahrain, polesitter Valtteri Bottas had a horrid start, the inverse of his new teammate George Russell who was ahead of Bottas into the first corner. At turn 4 of the first lap, an overzealous Charles Leclerc understeered into Sergio Perez, spinning Checo around and ending the race for both Leclerc and a charging Max Verstappen. Verstappen did his best to take evasive action but ran onto the gravel and lost all control before crashing into the wall at turn 4.
Checo immediately drove into the pits for a fresh set of mediums and emerged in last place behind the safety car. On the restart he locked up, flat-spotting his tyres and having a fairly difficult session as he clawed through the pack for a very long stint, only pitting for his 2nd set on lap 48 of the 87 lap race.
Meanwhile, the Merc’s had raced away with Russell comfortably leading the pack. The 2 charging Mercedes-AMG cars pitted much later than expected with lower degradation on both cars. Russell pitted on lap 45 having the first pit option as the lead car. Strangely, Bottas chose to pit 2 laps later and emerged 8,1-seconds behind Russell, twice as far behind as he was before the pitstops.
But it all went from bad to worse for the Mercedes team who chose to double stack the cars when the VSC was deployed after Fittipaldi had a shunt at turn 8, spilling his front wing onto the track. It was what Toto Wolff called a ‘safety stop’, as in, a stop that was not absolutely necessary with both car’s in front but one that was meant to take full advantage of VSC and seal the deal. The Mercedes team made two very rare mistakes that ultimately cost both driver’s some valuable points and a first win for George Russell. The team fitted a mix of tyres to Russell’s car and then in all the confusion, Bottas left the pits on exactly the same tyres as he came in.
The race for 3rd in the Constructor’s Championship was full of action today with Racing Point hauling in 40 points of course. Behind them, the battle between Kvyat, Gasly, Ricciardo and Sainz was very close throughout the race. Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll claimed their strong positions by nursing their tyres for the first stint putting another 42 and 44 laps respectively on their quali tyres.
To add insult to injury George Russell suffered a puncture very soon after his last pitstop, dropping him to 15th place with just 11 laps to go. A mature aggression from Russell saw him blitz through the field finishing in 9th position just behind his team mate Valtteri Bottas who lost so many places being on very old tyres.
2020 Sakhir Formula 1 Grand Prix Results:
1. Sergio Perez
2. Esteban Ocon
3. Lance Stroll
4. Carlos Sainz
5. Daniel Ricciardo
6. Alexander Albon
7. Daniil Kvyat
8. Valtteri Bottas
9. George Russell
10. Lando Norris
11. Pierre Gasly
12. Sebastian Vettel
13. Antonio Giovinazzi
14. Kimi Räikkönen
15. Kevin Magnussen
16. Jack Aitken
17. Pietro Fittipaldi
18. Nicholas Latifi – DNF
19. Max Verstappen – DNF
20. Charles Leclerc - DNF
For George Russell, it is absolute heartbreak that he missed out on his first win. He drove incredibly well, a blistering start and restart, masterful overtaking including his teammate. It’s a hard day for Russell and Mercedes but what a contrast of results for the pink Racing Point team and Ocon to equal his illustrious teammate with his own podium.
Can you believe that race winner Sergio Perez remains without a drive for 2021?
It is still unclear now as to whether Lewis Hamilton will be fit enough to drive next weekend in Abu Dhabi. Expect that announcement to be made within the next few days.