Sergio Perez took a stunning maiden victory for Racing Point in Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix after Mercedes’ hopes of a one-two finish collapsed in a disastrous double pit stop and then a late race puncture for long-time race leader George Russell.
Esteban Ocon finished second ahead of Lance Stroll, while Mercedes saw Valtteri Bottas finish eighth after he was massively delayed in the team’s bungled stop and George Russell took night place after he sustained a late race slow puncture that sent him back to the pit lane.
At the start, Russell, starting from P2 on the grid behind pole sitter Bottas, made a good getaway and passed his team-mate. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also made a good start from P3 on the grid to draw level with Bottas in the early corners.
However, as the field went into Turn 4, Verstappen was squeezed by Pérez on the outside and Bottas on the inside. The Red Bull driver backed out of the fight but on the inside of the corner Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc tried to edge through.
The result was contact between Pérez and Leclerc. Verstappen tried to avoid the collision but went off track and lost control in the gravel. He hit the barriers and his race was immediately over. Leclerc also exited the race but Pérez managed to get back to the pit lane for repairs and a set of medium tires during the following Safety Car period.
When the race resumed, Russell controlled the re-start well and held the lead. Bottas was passed by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz but the Spaniard went off track in doing so and was forced to give the place back.
As Russell started to eke out a gap at the front, Pérez was the man on the move and by lap 15 the Mexican had muscled his way back to P11.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon was running just ahead of Pérez and on lap 20 both closed in on McLaren’s Lando Norris who was struggling on his opening softs. Albon attacked and made a good move around the outside of the McLaren driver in Turn. Perez also slipped past Norris through Turn 4 and after Norris pitted at the end of the lap, Pérez then mounted an attack on Albon, passing the Red Bull in Turn 4.
Russell pitted from the lead on lap 44, while Bottas made his stop for hard tires at the end of lap 49 and rejoined eight seconds behind his young team-mate.
Behind the Mercedes pair and third-placed Esteban Ocon, Pérez was flying and a stunning recovery drive looked to have been completed when he powered past the Frenchman to claim the last podium position.
However, the race then took a hugely dramatic turn when Williams stand-in Jack Aitken lost control in the final corner and clipped the wall on the outside. The collision dislodged Aitken’s front wing and with debris on the track a Virtual Safety Car then became a physical one.
Mercedes reacted to the caution, bringing both drivers in for a stacked stop. But amid massive confusion, the championship-winners mixed their tire sets. Realizing the error they sent Bottas out on the hard tires he had nursed since his pit stop and Russell was sent out on a set of mediums that may have featured incorrect tires.
The Briton was pitted again and both dropped down the order. Russell immediately began to fight his way back and by the closing laps he had risen back to P2 and was threatening new race leader Perez. But just eight laps from the flag the first-time Mercedes driver was back in the pits with a slow puncture. The stop dropped him to P15 and though he hauled himself back to P9 for his first points finish in F1, he was placed under investigation for possibly running incorrect tires.
Bottas too was in trouble, trying to nurse his hard tires to the flag and he was passed by a slew of rivals on his way to an eventual eighth-place finish.
At the front, though, it was Pérez’s day and after 87 chaotic laps the Mexican crossed the line to take his maiden F1 win ahead of Ocon and the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
Sainz finished fourth for McLaren ahead of the second Renault of Ricciardo and with Albon sixth, seventh place went to AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat. Bottas held on to eighth ahead of Russell and the final point on offer went to Lando Norris in the second McLaren.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix – Race
1 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 87 1:31’15.114
2 Esteban Ocon Renault 87 1:31’25.632 10.518
3 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 87 1:31’26.983 11.869
4 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 87 1:31’27.694 12.580
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 87 1:31’28.444 13.330
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 87 1:31’28.956 13.842
7 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 87 1:31’29.648 14.534
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 87 1:31’30.503 15.389
9 George Russell Mercedes 87 1:31’33.670 18.556
10 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 87 1:31’34.655 19.541
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 87 1:31’35.641 20.527
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 87 1:31’37.725 22.611
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 87 1:31’39.225 24.111
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 87 1:31’41.267 26.153
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 87 1:31’47.484 32.370
16 Jack Aitken Williams/Mercedes 87 1:31’48.788 33.674
17 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas/Ferrari 87 1:31’51.972 36.858