Racing Point has taken a double podium at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. Sergio Perez has won his first-ever race making him the first Mexican driver to win since 1970. Renault’s Esteban Ocon finished second claiming his first podium as Lance Stroll swept up the final podium spot. The Sakhir Grand Prix was held using the 3.5km fast outer loop of the Bahrain International Circuit.
The 87 lap race started with the two Mercedes cars leading from the front row. Turning into the first corner, George Russell took the lead from Valtteri Bottas and started to easily walk away from the pack. Bottas struggling for grip was holding back the pack behind him. Come turn 4, a scuffle between Perez and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc left the Mexican driver spin out, and Leclerc with broken suspension. In the melee, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was collateral damage as he was left with nowhere to go but crash into the barriers ending his race. The Safety Car was summoned to neutralise the field. Perez, of course, pitted for a fresh set of tyres and check for any damage. Thus dropped right to the back of the pack.
The three biggest challenges to Mercedes were now out of the race, or so we thought. On the restart, Russell began pulling away again while Bottas was fending off attacks from Sainz whom he kept at bay.
On lap 46, Russell pitted and started setting fastest laps, followed by Bottas pitting for new tyres on lap 50 coming out 12 seconds ahead of Sainz, but eight seconds behind Russell.
Then Nicolas Latifi pulling over his Williams to retire brought out the Virtual Safety Car. While Sainz and Ricciardo pitted from third and fourth place, it was missed timed as the VSC was short-lived. This left both the drivers to lose valuable track positions.
Following his second pit stop Perez wast lighting up the track by climbing up the order rapidly and by lap 58, he was upto third place.
On lap 62, Jack Aitken filling in for Russell at Williams lost it through the final corner and clipped the barrier leaving debris on the track which triggered the safety car again.
Mercedes reacted quickly to double-stack both cars. Seemingly Russell’s stop was smooth, but the blunder was discovered when Bottas arrived in the box. The team then realised that Bottas’ tyres were put on Russell’s car and Russell’s tyres were going on to Bottas’s car. Bottas was sent out on the same aged hard tyres and Russell was brought back in on the following lap to correct the mistake with fresh medium tyres.
This meant that Bottas was down in fourth and Russell in fifth. But more importantly, Sergio Perez was now in the lead!
After the restart, Perez took off, with Ocon and Stroll behind. George Russell made three brilliant overtakes on Bottas, then Stroll and Ocon subsequently and began setting fastest laps of the race to reel in Perez.
Then Russell was called back into the pits due to a slow puncture which wrecked Russell’s stellar drive and sealing his fate. Watching the win being loosened from his grip led to many heartbreaks. Russell was out of the pits back down to 15th place. But he recovered for a consoling ninth place to claim the first championship points of his career.
However, it was Sergio Perez who drove valiantly to claim his first win. Followed by Ocon and Stroll who stood either side on the podium. Perez missed out on a podium spot last weekend after a turbo failure at the Bahrain Grand Prix. This victory would surely be vindication for the Mexican driver. It’s a shame that a driver of Perez’s stature doesn’t have a drive for 2021.
With Racing Point now moving up to third place in the championship, other drivers and teams who collected points included Carlos Sainz in the McLaren finishing fourth with Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault in fifth. Alex Albon finished fifth for Red Bull with Daniil Kvyat in seventh for AlphaTauri. Bottas dropped down due to his degrading tyres to cross the line eighth ahead of Russell with Lando Norris claiming the final point of the race in 10th place thanks to his commendable start making up nine places.
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