- Sergio Perez wins maiden F1 race at Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain
- George Russell denied chance for victory as Mercedes’ deputy, after late tyre issues
- Sakhir Outer Circuit proves revelation, as fast track provides show
SAKHIR, BAHRAIN – After Sergio Perez claimed his maiden Formula 1 win this past weekend, what did we learn from the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain?
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Perez maiden win merited
As Formula 1 lined up for its penultimate race of a tumultuous season, Sergio Perez ended a 10-year wait for a race win, sealing a superb maiden victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.
Followed home with a superb drive by Renault’s Esteban Ocon and another third spot for Perez’ teammate Lance Stroll, it was a weekend to remember for Racing Point with a podium double, after a year of controversy.
Securing a P5 in qualifying, the 30-year-old from Guadalajara, was the beneficiary of a race to set the pulse racing in the desert.
In his tenth season in F1, Perez was as expected, moved to tears in taking the chequered flag first.
After coming home a runner-up in Istanbul last month, RP’s improved performance this season, have finally seen the Mexican prove his abilities. Celebrated in unison across the paddock, Perez’ win after a year that saw him test positive for Covid-19, has been a long time coming and is no less deserved
Will the Mexican be picked up?
The only question that now remains, is will Perez will picked up for next season? A driver with that little something extra, his absence from the 2021 season would be a crime.
But with only one race of the campaign to run and only three scheduled months until the new season begins in Melbourne next March, Perez remains on the sidelines.
With just three realistic seats to fill – providing Hamilton does sign on for next year – only openings at Red Bull, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin remain.
Of the trio, joining up with Christian Horner looks the most likely. Given Alex Albon somehow managed to manufacture P6 from a shot at a third podium of his career, the Thai driver could be under threat.
Though Max Verstappen again suffered further frustration on the back of a year of again playing catch-up, was Bahrain GP weekend, when Perez’ future was determined?
Russell denied dream victory
The Mexican’s joy came at the detriment of George Russell, who with a perhaps unlikely victory in his sights, saw his dreams snatched away from him late on.
Filling the boots of Lewis Hamilton who remained in isolation after his positive Covid-19 test, the burgeoning 24-year-old from Norfolk showed Mercedes why so many are tipping Russell for an exciting future.
As machine-like as the German manufacturer have been once more this season, it was however, their own mistake which led to Russell’s downfall.
Having jumped out ahead of pole-sitter and teammate for the weekend in Valtteri Bottas, the Briton had led the race for most of the piece.
After a team decision to pit both drivers during a Safety Car period alas, a radio miscommunication led to Russell’s car being fitted with Bottas’ front tyres.
That forced both drivers to stop again, and after a series of bold overtaking manoeuvres had put Russell within reach of Perez once more, the former was hit was a puncture, as he finished P9.
Hit by a massive dose of misfortune, Russell will be kicking himself as he leaves Bahrain. But, if this was his audition for a future spot with the Silver Arrows, he can consider his weekend’s efforts as job done.
‘Colossal **** up’
That is how Mercedes Team head Toto Wolff labelled the mistake, that saw Russell have – at the very least – a podium snatched away from him in Sakhir.
Explaining that one of the crews did not hear the call to ‘double-stack’ both Bottas and Russell’s stops, Wolff blamed technical rather than personnel failures.
As an anguished Russell could be heard over the same team radio as he slipped from second to ninth over the final laps, Wolff was equally gutted for his deputy driver.
But, as he told F1.com, he believes that this will not be the last time Russell is competing for the podium’s top spot:
“Of course, it was very emotional because if you’re in your first race in a Mercedes and you should have won it, actually, driving a monumental race, then there is not a lot you can say.
But it’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race; it’s just the beginning of a fairy-tale that didn’t work out today, and I would say that a new star is born.”
Sakhir Outer Circuit thrills
As Bahrain’s second weekend of duty saw the Sakhir International Circuit’s Outer track used, its innovative introduction to F1 was a rousing success all round.
Producing a thrilling race of tactical nuances, sub-minute lap times and the opportunity for a host of overtakes, the first linear track of its kind produced a superb spectacle.
Throwing up the second of most unexpected podiums this term, after a Bahrain GP that left everyone talking for the all the wrong and infamous reasons, Sakhir bounced back in fine style this weekend.
The 2020 Formula 1 season concludes this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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