Sergio Perez took his first Grand Prix victory after 190 races in Formula One at the Sakhir Grand Prix, after finishing the first lap all the way down in last place following a chaotic opening few corners. Esteban Ocon picked up his first podium by finishing in second and Lance Stroll made it a double Racing Point podium in third.
The build-up to this race was full of excitement and drama, as for the first time since 2006, there was no Lewis Hamilton present. The 7-time world champion tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the race as a result. A lot of questions as to who would be his replacement were circulated, with Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez, both Mercedes reserve drivers, mentioned. In the end, the drive went to young George Russell, who is currently in his second season with Williams.
George settled into life at Mercedes very quickly and was only 0.026 seconds off team mate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying. When the race got underway, he immediately jumped Bottas and started to pull out a lead. There was chaos behind, as Charles LeClerc tipped Perez into a spin. Max Verstappen, trying to take avoiding action, went nose-first into the barriers and into retirement. He was joined by LeClerc, who sustained too much damage on his Ferrari. Perez managed to get going, but he was all the way down in last place and had to pit for fresh rubber following the collision.
After the Safety Car came in following the crash, Russell again sprinted away into the lead of the race, with Bottas behind. The two Mercedes cars looked like making it a certain one-two finish, but it all fell apart after George Russell’s replacement, Jack Aitken, lost control of his Williams exiting the final turn and clipped the barrier, tearing off the car’s front wing. During the cleanup, Mercedes opted to double-stack both Russell and Bottas. There was a huge mix up in the pit stop, and Russell was fitted with the wrong tires. Bottas was also held up due to the tire confusion, and all hope of the one-two finish had gone out of the window. Russell made up most of the places he had lost due to the confusion, but with only a handful of laps left he was told he had a slow puncture on the rear left and had to come in for more new tyres, which left him down in 14h place.
The last laps were chaotic as drivers squabbled for position, with Carlos Sainz narrowly missing out on a podium in fourth place, Daniel Ricciardo picking up fifth on a good weekend for Renault, Alex Albon sixth in the sole remaining Red Bull, Daniil Kvyat seventh for AlphaTauri, Bottas eighth for Mercedes, one place ahead of George Russell, who fought back admirably to take ninth. In doing so, he also scored his first points in Formula One, and also scored an extra point for picking up the fastest lap. Lando Norris picked up the final point for McLaren in tenth.
George Russell, The Super Sub
What a week is has been for the young man from Kings Lynn. Drafted into Mercedes with only a few days notice, fastest in both Friday practice sessions, only 0.026 seconds off his team mate in qualifying, and and almost certain victory snatched from him in the dying moments.
George can leave Bahrain with his head held high and knowing he did everything he needed to do to score his first Formula One win. Unfortunately, such is the luck of F1 sometimes, it was taken from him with only a handful of laps to go.
Those who read my articles and watch the podcast (every Monday, 8pm!), will know I’m a massive Russell fan, so I was over the moon when I saw he was going to be replacing Lewis Hamilton for this race. I knew he had a good chance of getting a podium, as the whole paddock and the fans know what he can do and how much of a fast driver he is. To be 0.026 seconds off your team mate, who has been driving that car all year, after only being in the car for a matter of days, is fantastic. And to almost win the race, after beating that team mate off the line and leaving him behind and showing him how it’s done, is even sweeter. The move he made around Bottas towards the end of the race showed exactly what he is capable of, and left many people in awe.
There is no doubt that George is a future race winner and World Champion. He has a long and bright future in F1 ahead of him, and I can’t wait to follow it. It is unclear as to whether Lewis or George will be in that car when we head to Abu Dhabi in a weeks time, but if it is indeed George, he will be looking to right a few wrongs from this race!
Sergio Perez, the Race Winner Finally!
Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez made his debut for Sauber back in 2011. From the moment he stepped into an F1 car, people knew he was something special. He came so close to victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2012, and has scored plenty of podiums over his career for Sauber, Force India and Racing Point.
A move to McLaren in 2013 showed so much promise, but it was a disappointing year for both driver and team, with an underperforming car, and he left McLaren after just one season. It seemed he would be shown the door out of Formula One, but he found a home at Force India for 2014, and has remained with the team ever since.
This victory is very much deserved. He is the man who saved Racing Point (then known as Force India) from going under a few years back when the team was in serious financial trouble. He put on a thoroughy impressive display in Sakhir, fighting back from last on the opening lap to finish on the top step and become the first Mexican driver to win a Grand Prix since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970.
It’s hard to believe that Checo currently doesn’t have a drive for 2021. He is hotly tipped for the second Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen, but the team remain undecided as to whether they keep Alex Albon or go for the more experience Sergio Perez.
It’s an absolute travesty that a man of his skills and talents doesn’t have a drive for next year, and if he doesn’t get a seat for 2021, I hope he is back on the grid for 2022.
Thank You Romain Grosjean
After last week’s horror crash, it came as no surprise to hear that Romain Grosjean wouldn’t be racing this weekend. But it was hoped he would be back in the car for the season finale in Abu Dhabi, which would give him the chance to close his F1 career with one last race.
Unfortunately, Romain has said that he won’t be racing in Abu Dhabi on the advice of his doctors, and therefore it seems highly unlikely we will see him in a Formula One car again.
I’ve never closely followed Romain and have at times been rather critical of him, but it’s a shame he won’t get a final send off. He has had a long career, with plenty of podiums and some fantastic moments since he joined the sport in 2012. He did of course have half a season with Renault in 2009, but his F1 career really got started when he was partnered with Kimi Raikkonen for the 2012 season at Lotus (formerly Renault). There were ups, notably his run of podiums in 2013, there were downs, mainly him causing the massive start line shunt at Belgium in 2012 which ultimately earned him a one race ban.
On his day, he is a very quick driver, and quite often took the fight to Raikkonen during their time together at Lotus, and of course has had plenty of good races since he joined the Haas team for their debut in 2016. Sixth and the fifth in their first two races together was great to see.
Whatever your thoughts on Romain Grosjean, it’s a shame to see him bow out of the sport like this and I hope he finds success in whatever category he moves to next, and has a happy life with his wife and children! Thank you Romain.
Get Well Soon, Lewis
It was a surprise to see Lewis Hamilton had contracted COVID-19 and would therefore miss this race. There are a lot of procedures in place, but we have already seen it happen twice this year with both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. The F1 world has done very well with everything they have put in place, and we can be fortunate only three drivers have tested positive in what has been a crazy season.
I hope all of the people at Mercedes are well, and that Lewis makes a swift recovery. It remains to be seen who will be in the Mercedes by the time we get to Abu Dhabi as it could be Lewis or it could still be George!
Where Are We Heading Next?
Abu Dhabi in a week’s time. Not the most interesting of circuits. I seem to remember Kimi Raikkonen’s typically unfiltered opinion of it from 2009. Hopefully, we will see another exciting and unpredictable race!
Until then, take care and stay safe!