SAKHIR GP – Sergio Perez takes victory as things unravel for Mercedes in closing stages

Testing & Race Reports

Sergio Perez has taken his maiden race win in the Sakhir Grand Prix, the Mexican took victory after the race unravelled in the closing stages for Mercedes and George Russell in the closing stages of the race. Racing Point took their first win since the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix as Jordan.

Racing Point inherited the lead when Russell, standing in for Lewis Hamilton pitted late in the race. Mercedes made a mistake accidentally fitting Valtteri Bottas’s tyres to Russell’s car when he was in fourth. In what could be his penultimate race the Mexican finally scored his first win.

Perez had dropped to last place on the opening lap, after being hit by Charles Leclerc at Turn Four. The Mexican worked his way up from the back to third when it all went horribly wrong for Mercedes at the final pit stop.

Perez has finished every race, apart from last weekends race and the two he missed after testing positive for coronavirus, this season. While Leclerc retired and Verstappen crashed a podium appeared unlikely when he pitted and dropped to last.

The win for Perez also marks the first time since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, that four teams have taken victory in a single season.

Perez said, “I hope I am not dreaming because I dream so many years being in this moment – ten years it took me, I don’t know what to say. Incredible; after the start I thought the race was again gone but it was all about not giving up and recovering.”

Esteban Ocon was second for Renault finishing ten seconds behind his former teammate and a second ahead of Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll. Carlos Sainz was fourth, the threat from Bottas fading in the closing stages which allowed several cars to pass him.

At the start, Bottas and Russell launched in unison from the front row, but Bottas was slower in the second phase and Russell pulled alongside, with Max Verstappen having a look in between them. Russell then took the lead and held the position through most of the race, until the closing stages when he ran over debris causing a puncher.

Russell drove a Lewis Hamilton-style race, building a commanding leads but the mess up in the final stop under the safety car. It remains unknown if the seven-time champion will be able to race in Abu Dhabi, he needs two negative tests, or will Russell get another chance?

The Englishman won the start and then pulled away following the first safety car when Max Verstappen crashed on the opening lap. It had all the echoes of Leclerc’s near maiden win in Bahrain last March.

Russell’s stand-in at Williams played his part in costing him victory, Jack Aitken lost his front wing at the final corner which bounced onto the track leading to a safety car. It was the catalyst for the pit stop bundler.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said on team radio, echoing the same message Russell had after crashing out at Imola when he was on course for his first point.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff bluntly described it as “a colossal **** up” from F1’s dominant world champion team, citing a “radio failure” for the miscommunication in the garage. As the team endured their worst race of the season.

Verstappen’s race end at Turn Four he carried too much speed and slid into the barrier on the first lap. Russell then led the race until lap sixty-four, barring two laps before Bottas’s first stop, before the late puncher caused the pit stop, dropped him down to fourteenth.

Russell finally worked his way back to ninth one place behind Bottas. He was also under investigation for Mercedes’ fitting of incorrect tyres on his car, but decided to fine Mercedes €20,000.

He told Sky Sports, “I can’t really put it into words to be honest. Jumping out of the car… it wasn’t a nice feeling. I’ve had races where I’ve had victories taken away from me, but twice? I just couldn’t believe it. I gave it everything I had.

A race where he could have won, taking maximum points becoming the first driver to win on debut for a new team since 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. Almost a repeat of last years race in Bahrain, where Leclerc had a commanding lead only for an engine issue to cost him his first win.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth finishing ahead of Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat. Bottas eventually ended up eighth following the mix up at the second pit stop. Albon failing once again to deliver the result he needs, while the man tipped to replace him took his maiden win.

Red Bull ideally would have wanted to take victory when it all unravelled for Mercedes, in the closing stages.

Daniil Kvyat was seventh ahead of the two Mercedes, Lando Norris took the final point for McLaren. Pierre Gasly was eleventh finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel, like last week Ferrari power again struggled in Sakhir, the four-time champion leading the Ferrari-powered group in twelfth.

Antonio Giovinazzi was thirteenth just over two seconds ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Kevin Magnussen was fifteenth ahead of Aitken, while his stand-in teammate Pietro Fittipaldi was seventeenth the last of the cars to finish the race.



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