Sergio Perez landed his first Formula One win at the Sakhir Grand Prix this evening in Bahrain.
It was an impressive outing for the British team who landed their first double podium finish, with Lance Stroll crossing the line in third.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon also clinched his first Formula One podium, finishing out the race in second place.
Valtteri Bottas took off from pole position in a Mercedes front-row lock-out with George Russell starting in P2, and Max Verstappen in third.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started from P4 followed consecutively by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, Daniil Kvyat in the Alpha Tauri, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, and Carlos Sainz in the McLaren.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon started today’s race from a distant 12th, while McLaren’s Lando Norris received a grid penalty for a late engine change, setting him back to P19.
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc found themselves out of the race on lap 1, going into the barriers at turn 4 following a minor collision between Perez and Leclerc.
The incident saw Perez drop down to 18th and brought about the first safety car of the day.
Racing resumed on lap 6 of 87, and immediately saw a battle ensue between Sainz and Bottas for P2, and although the McLaren briefly got ahead of the Mercedes, Bottas reclaimed his position and pushed Sainz back to third.
By the end of lap 9, Lando Norris had made his way from 19th to 9th, getting ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, Russell in the Mercedes was ahead of the pack by almost 2s.
Lap 20 saw a midfield battle begin for ninth between Lando Norris and Alex Albon, with Albon managing to scrape ahead of the Mclaren.
At the halfway point of today’s race, neither Mercedes had boxed yet, with Russell leading Bottas by 2.9s, however, lap 46 saw Russell pit from the lead for hard tyres, returning to the track in second just ahead of Sergio Perez – which saw Bottas re-inherit the lead.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was the third retirement of the day, bringing about a virtual safety car. He had an issue which saw him pull over at the final sector of the track marking the end of his race.
Lap 63 saw another safety car on track after Jack Aitken lost the front wing of his Williams following a spin at the final corner of the circuit.
Then, disaster began to strike for Mercedes, and what was looking like a double podium finish, was soon out of sight for the team.
Bottas entered the pits behind Russell, but issues fitting the front left tyre saw the Finn endure a stay of 27s in the pits. He finally returned to the track in fifth with Russell still in the lead.
However, the 22-year-old was summoned back to the pits after Mercedes put a mix of tyres onto the car bringing the duo from P1 and P2 down to fifth and sixth.
The safety car exited the track on lap 69 while the error made by Mercedes allowed Sergio Perez to take the lead followed by Renaut’s Esteban Ocon and his Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll.
In one final glance of a podium finish, Russell fought his way back up to second, but on lap 79, was summoned once more to the pits for a tyre change after a puncture was reported, seeing him return to the race in P15.
Then, with just 5 laps to go, Sergio Perez extended his lead by 9.2s in front of Ocon and Stroll.
Perez, who was in 18th place at the end of lap 1, pounded his way up through the positions to cross the line and clinch his first win in Formula One.
Standing alongside him this evening was Esteban Ocon who landed his first podium in second place, as Racing Point recorded their first double podium with Lance Stroll taking the final step.
Coming in fourth was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who just missed out on a podium finish followed by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and the remaining Red Bull of Alex Albon in sixth.
Daniil Kvyat crossed the line in seventh followed by the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and George Russell in a disappointing eighth and ninth respectively.
Closing out the points at the Sakhir Grand Prix was the second McLaren of Lando Norris, who began today’s race in P19 after receiving a penalty for a late engine change.
Speaking about his first Formula One win, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez said: “I hope I’m not dreaming because I’ve been dreaming of this moment for 10 years.
“After the first lap, the race was gone. But it was all about not giving up, recovering.
“This season, luck hasn’t been with us but I think today we won on merit.”
An extremely disappointed George Russell spoke following the race and said:
“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.
“I was managing the race at the start, I felt confident, comfortable, managing the gap to Valtteri.
“Then obviously we had the muddle up in the pit-stop, that put us on the back foot, I had to overtake. I think we still could have caught Sergio, we had such a tyre advantage, the car was so quick.
“Gutted. But incredibly proud of what we have achieved and happy to have had the opportunity.”
The final race of the 2020 season takes place next weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, on December 13. Lights out is at 13:10 Irish time.
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