Racing Point’s Sergio Perez snatched a dramatic victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix as Mercedes threw away an one-two finish in explosive fashion.
George Russell on his first start for Mercedes claimed the lead into Turn One and proceeded to dominate the race until a Safety Car was deployed on lap 63 after his replacement at Williams, Jack Aitken knocked off his front wing out of the final corner.
Perez meanwhile had worked his way back up the order after a first lap spin left him rock bottom and found himself in right place to take advantage of Mercedes putting mixed tyres on Russell’s car which forced the Brit to stop twice whilst Bottas experienced tyre confusion at his stop.
Upon the restart, Perez blitzed away into the lead and ultimately victory as Russell quickly climbed to second only for a puncture to end his hopes of a win, leaving the Mexican to cruise to the flag unchallenged from Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.
Speaking post-race after taking his first victory in his 190th start and the first Mexican to win in 50 years, Perez said; “Well I am speechless. I hope I am not dreaming because I’ve dreamed so many years of being in this moment for ten years.”
Bottas struggled on his worn hard tyres after a forced reversion at his second stop amidst confusion over tyres and slipped to eighth as Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat got past him, with the Finnish driver finishing ahead of Russell and Lando Norris in tenth.
In the drivers’ standings, Bottas has a 16 point lead over Max Verstappen in their fight for second whilst Perez’s victory lifted him up to fourth ahead of Ricciardo with one race left of this season, whereas Sainz is now one point off Charles Leclerc who will be his teammate at Ferrari next season.
Racing Point meanwhile reclaimed third in the Constructors’ championship by nine points from McLaren with Renault now a further 13 points behind, although a maximum haul of 44 points is on offer in Abu Dhabi as their scrap goes to the wire.
At the start, Russell held inside line into Turn One to snatch the lead from pole-sitter, Bottas who then got shaky on the rear out of Turns Two and Three which enabled Perez, Verstappen and Leclerc to go three abreast with the Mexican sweeping around the outside as Leclerc locked up on the inside and tagged Perez into a spin.
Verstappen reacted by taking evasive action but mistook part of the gravel trap for run-off tarmac which sucked him into the barriers and retirement, alongside Leclerc who had a broken front left tyre on his Ferrari, with the Monegasque handed a three place grid penalty in Abu Dhabi for his error.
Perez meanwhile recovered to the pits and swapped to mediums as the Safety Car came out until the end of lap six with the Mexican at the rear of the field.
Up front, Russell got a clean getaway from Bottas as Sainz held up a long queue of cars containing Ricciardo, Stroll and Kvyat amongst other, having almost gone second on the restart after passing Bottas before running wide.
Perez meanwhile worked his way up from 18th to 11th in the first five laps back under racing conditions before biding his time as Norris and Albon fought until lap 20, when the Thai driver got past with Perez following straight through to demote Norris out of the points as the queue ahead began to space out to protect tyres.
Kvyat then triggered the first round of stops from fifth on lap 28 with Sainz and Gasly stopping a lap later to promote Perez up to fifth, as Ricciardo lost a then net fifth to Kvyat by virtue of stopping two laps later as he rejoined in tenth.
Stroll still on his soft tyres continued in third until lap 43 but lost out to Ocon at Turn Four for ninth as he focused on warming up his tyres.
Mercedes elsewhere were dominant until Russell encountered a sensor issue when he stopped on lap 46 with Bottas following suit four laps later as they retained their order, even after a Virtual Safety Car on lap 55 to allow Nicholas Latifi’s retired Williams to be removed at Turn Eight.
Two laps later, Perez made a move on Stroll as he locked up at Turn Four and ran wide with the Mexican now on hard tyres after pitting on lap 48.
Aitken meanwhile was running a quiet race when he ran wide out of the final corner and clipped the barriers to dislodge his front wing, triggering a Safety Car on lap 63, with Mercedes incorrectly fitting mixed tyres on Russell’s car which put Perez into the lead.
Bottas meanwhile stopped in a double-stack and after confusion, he found himself stuck on the same set of hard tyres that he had pitted on but found himself ahead of Russell after the Brit had to stop again a lap later for correct tyres.
Once the race resumed on lap 69, Perez made a clean start as Albon passed Gasly for ninth before Russell then made an outside move on Bottas into Turn Seven a lap later, putting the Brit fourth as he reeled in and passed Stroll then Ocon on laps 72 and 73.
Russell now was in clear air and set about hunting down Perez until he picked up a puncture on lap 78 which forced him to pit, whilst Bottas found himself passed by Sainz, Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat due to no rear grip on his tyres to drop him to eighth.
Perez meanwhile romped towards victory as Russell fought back from 15th after his fourth stop to snatch ninth from Norris on the final lap after both had passed Gasly in the closing stages, gifting Russell his first points in F1 whilst Mercedes were fined €20,000 for fitting Bottas’ front medium tyres to Russell’s car at his second stop.
Ocon clinched his first F1 podium in second and ensured that Renault got both drivers on the podium in the same season for the first time since 2011 as a factory team, although 2013 was the most recent season with two drivers on podium under the Lotus brand after dropped Renault from their team name in 2012 for four seasons.
Stroll rounded off the podium with a third placed finish for the third time in his F1 career and the second occasion in which he finished third this season, fending off Sainz, Ricciardo, Albon, Gasly and Bottas.
2020 Sakhir GP Result
|1||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||87||1h 31m 15.114|
|2||Esteban Ocon||Renault||87||+ 10.518|
|3||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||87||+ 11.869|
|4||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||87||+ 12.580|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||87||+ 13.330|
|6||Alex Albon||Red Bull||87||+ 13.842|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri||87||+ 14.534|
|8||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||87||+ 15.389|
|9||George Russell||Mercedes||87||+ 18.556|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||87||+ 19.541|
|11||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||87||+ 20.527|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||87||+ 22.611|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||87||+ 24.111|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||87||+ 26.153|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||87||+ 32.370|
|16||Jack Aitken||Williams||87||+ 33.674|
|17||Enzo Fittipaldi||Haas||87||+ 36.858|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||0||Crash|