Sub-edited by Riley Taylor.
Sergio Perez became the first Mexican to win a Grand Prix since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970 as he won the Sakhir Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the 2020 season.
With the absence of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton this weekend due to a positive Covid-19 test, the Sakhir Grand Prix billed itself as one of the most anticipated in F1 this season with no one knowing who would take victory around the 87 laps of Bahrain’s outer circuit.
However, this Grand Prix was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions, as it saw heartbreak for some and jubilation for others.
George Russell, stepping up from his Williams seat to replace Hamilton, was one such driver who suffered agonising heartbreak. Russell aced the start of the race, overtaking Valtteri Bottas on the way to turn one.Embed from Getty Images
Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Perez all got of well too but were clumped up behind Bottas as they approached turn four. This consequently led to a catalogue of incidents just four turns in, one more than the Bahrain Grand Prix had provided before Romain Grosjean suffered his horrific crash.
Verstappen was uncharacteristically early on his brakes which gave Leclerc an opening up the inside. Unfortunately for him, the gap was occupied by Perez, who was hit by Leclerc and spun out, thus forcing Verstappen wide in an effort to avoid the carnage but running out of room in the gravel trap before hitting the wall and being forced to retire his car alongside Leclerc. Perez carried on with flat-spotted tyres and pitted at the end of the lap emerging plum last in the order before the safety car went in at the end of lap six.
The start of the race saw a big shuffle further down the order too, as Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo sat third and fourth behind the two black Silver Arrows.
Russell quickly established a healthy lead and looked very calm and composed leading the race. The first wave of pit stops started on lap 21 when Lando Norris swapped his softs for mediums with Daniil Kvyat executing an undercut to get himself past Ricciardo’s Renault on lap 31.
Ricciardo’s teammate Esteban Ocon got nearly half-way through the race before having to pit, showing off excellent tyre management to make his tyres last this long.
Russell finally pitted on lap 46, the medium tyres serving him well up to that point, with Bottas coming in a couple of laps later but being unable to achieve an overcut due to Russell’s extreme pace.
Meanwhile back at Russell’s old team, Williams, Nicholas Latifi retired on lap 53, pulling his car over at turn nine. Leading to a Virtual Safety Car and a set of pit stops for a number of teams while the car was pushed away.
Norris and Pierre Gasly both managed to complete their pits under the yellow flag while Sainz and Ricciardo weren’t so lucky.
Lap 61 saw another incident involving Williams, with rookie Jack Aitken spinning out at the final turn and losing his front wing, leaving debris on the track.Embed from Getty Images
Mercedes decided to take this opportunity to double stack their drivers, something they have done on numerous occasions before. Russell’s pit seemingly went well, but Bottas suffered bad luck once again, with the pit crew getting confused with what tyres the Finn needed, eventually replacing the same medium tyres they took off with the same set of mediums.
Russell meanwhile is called back into the pits because of a mixed set of tyres, showing a complete circus in the pits at a usually well-oiled machine in Mercedes. As the safety car pit on lap 70, this led the top five as Perez, Ocon, Lance Stroll, Bottas and Russell.
Russell performed a brilliant overtake on Bottas around the new twisty part of the circuit, showcasing his quality in a more capable car. His exceptional pace allowing him to make his way all the way up to P2 and within three seconds of the race leader Perez, but it wasn’t to be as the pit wall told him he had a rear left puncture and would need to pit again.
It was an agonising turn of events yet again for the 2018 Formula 2 champion, but on a brand-new set of softs, he still had a chance to salvage score some points. But he would need to come from P14 to do it.
Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Perez claimed his first-ever victory in Formula 1 in what could be his second to last race in it, breaking the record for the longest wait for a maiden race win at 190 races.
The podium spots were taken up by Ocon, who himself scored his first-ever podium and best-ever finish at P2 and Stroll taking up third for the second time this season, with Sainz following closely behind.
The rest of the top 10 was made up of Ricciardo, Alex Albon who will have even more pressure on his seat than before, Kvyat who drove a brilliant but underappreciated race, Bottas and Russell who scored his first-ever points in F1, ending a run of 36 races before today in which he hadn’t scored points, with the Brit also taking the bonus point for the fastest lap, while Norris occupied the final points position.
The race result takes the constructors down to the wire. It had seemed that the momentum had shifted away from Racing Point last weekend, but now it seems to have sharply shifted back in their favour, now leading fourth-placed McLaren by 10 points and fifth-placed Renault by 22 points.
But with up to 44 points to play for in the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi, the race for the millions of pounds which can be obtained by clinching P3 in the constructors will go down to the very last lap of the 2020 season.