Sakhir Grand Prix: Perez triumphs at last, despair for Russell

Sergio Perez was the winner of a sensational 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix despite dropping to the back of the field in a first-lap melee, triumphing at the expense of a luckless George Russell a and a dismal performance by Mercedes who inadvertently, or not, destroyed a fairytale night.

A night that should have belonged to George, is Sergio’s greatest night in Formula 1, deservedly taking a long-awaited victory in what may be his second-last Grand Prix and the first win for Racing Point who will become Aston Martin next year.

It was Checo’s finest drive, and a night which he showed well and truly why he belongs in F1, winning the season’s most beautiful race from last at one point to the top step of the podium a couple of hours later. His 191st Grand Prix start.

The Mexican said afterwards, “I hope I’m not dreaming because I’ve been dreaming of this moment for 10 years. After the first lap, the race was gone. But it was all about not giving up, recovering. This season, the luck hasn’t been with us but I think today we won on merit.”

Esteban Ocon played his cards optimally and found himself in second place at the end of the race, but could not do much about the Pink-Mercedes at the front. Nevertheless a superb result for the Frenchman who needed a big result before the season ended.

The Renault driver said afterwards, “I have no words! I cried on the line. There was so much emotion going through my mind. It’s been a tough season on our side, it hasn’t paid off all the time but we never stopped pushing. We kept working hard, kept motivated, so that was very important.

“When less and less people are believing in you, it is important to believe in yourself and today we made it happen. I’m very pleased. It was hard work but it paid off,” he added.

Lance Stroll, another driver who relishes races with high-attrition, was third to make it the greatest drive for Racing Point in Formula 1.

The Canadian summed up his race, “Amazing race for the team. Part of me is a little disappointed. I thought I could win the race. I didn’t really have the pace to overtake Esteban. Unbelievable result first and third. It is what we needed for the championship.

“I’m so happy for Sergio. He has a couple of races left with the team. He has been up there for such a long time waiting for the win and it came this weekend.”

But the story that might have been, George’s win that did not happen but he exposed his superstar talent at the expense of Valterri who was overshadowed and never looked a serious threat to the young super-sub who Mercedes have as a prize asset for their future

The race was marred early on after a shunt involving Sergio, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull).

Reviewing the replays show Leclerc overshot his braking into Turn 4, tagged Sergio’s car and ultimately stole Max from the show, as the Dutchman slammed the barriers avoiding the melee, Charles’ Ferrari ended alongside the blue car.

Sergio’s race was compromised as he had to make a quick pit stop for repairs and trees. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) was third and Daniel Ricciardo(Renault) was fourth at that point.

Martin Brundle pointed out on Sky: “Bottas brakes a little bit later into Turn One, Russell has the high ground and takes the position. But then it goes horribly wrong again for Valtteri on the exit of T2.

“That backs the pack up and then it’s a four-way scrap down to Turn 4. Verstappen brakes early. Perez turns in on Leclerc and they collected Verstappen.”

Carlos Sainz was feisty in the McLaren, rewarded with fourth place while teammate Lando Norris toiled to tenth place. Daniel Ricciardo was fifth making it Renault power in the top ten.

With Max forced out early, Alex Albon flew the flag for Red Bull and again was simply out of his depth, sixth place was his reward and quickest of the Honda brigade, after being outqualified by them a day earlier. Daniil Kvyat was seventh in the AlphaTauri.

Mercedes shot themselves in the foot when they had the race bagged and George in control despite a mysterious power loss that kept Valtteri in the picture.

But their pit stops during the final safety car period were a parody, the kind of thing that you see from Ferrari, but hardly ever from the mighty world champions. In a crazy five minutes, they destroyed the race for both their drivers.

Although Russell chased gamely after the restart and looked set to reel in Sergio in the lead, a puncture forced him to pit with the finish in sight which dropped him from potentially winning the race to just scraping in for his first-ever points in ninth place behind Valtteri.

In the end, this weekend the Finn beat George in quali and the race, yet he was thoroughly outshone by the 22-year-old with a massive future in F1. Mercedes owe him big time. Fans voted him the Driver of the Day for his galant efforts, sending a clear message to his minders.

In closing worth noting, this year’s W11 did not manage to win the race today, instead, last year’s W10 with Pink hairspray did the business, illustrating just how mighty the German team has been in this era of the sport.

Report in progress…