Racing Point’s Sergio Perez drove to the victory on Sunday at the 2020 Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.
The race was the last of the special rounds added to the revised 2020 calendar in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and was held on the high-speed Outer Track of the Bahrain International Circuit that serves as home of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
For Perez, it was a maiden victory in now his 10th, and possibly final, season of F1, but this wasn’t the big news of the day. All eyes were on George Russell who had swapped his Williams for the Mercedes-Benz AMG of Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, who has already been named the 2020 champion, sat out the race due to his self-isolation after catching the coronavirus during last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Russell started at second on the grid and was in the lead for much of the race, but first a folly during a pit stop and then a puncture in the final stage ended his chance of victory. The young Briton had a perfect start, with fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas starting from pole position.
Behind them were Perez and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who had to deal with an attack from the rear from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the opening lap. Leclerc moved up the inside of Turn 4 and came into contact with Perez, after which Perez headed to the pits while Leclerc was forced to retire. Meanwhile Verstappen, in an attempt to escape, ran off the track and into a wall, ending his race as well.
Mercedes-Benz AMG’s George Russell at the 2020 Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix
The safety car came out and the race resumed on lap seven. Russell remained in the lead and worked on building the gap while Bottas behind had to deal with an attacking Carlos Sainz of McLaren. The two Mercedes drivers then built up a gap with the rest of the pack but in the final stage things took a turn in the wrong direction.
Both were called in for fresh tires. First there was confusion as Bottas was changed onto mediums and then onto hards, which cost him almost half a minute. Russell meanwhile looked set to score his maiden victory after what he thought was his final stop, but then he was called back to the pits after the team realized it fitted the wrong tires. This allowed Perez, who at one point was 17th, to move up to the lead spot, with fellow Racing Point driver Lance Stroll and Renault’s Esteban Ocon close behind.
Russell rejoined the race fifth, with Bottas now in fourth. Russell quickly passed his teammate and was working on reclaiming the lead when he suffered a puncture that forced him back to the pits. He rejoined at 15th this time and by the end of the race could only climb to ninth overall, thus missing out on his first win, his first podium and his first points. Perez went on to win the race, with Ocon claiming second and Stroll third.
Following the events of Sunday, Hamilton leads the 2020 Drivers’ Championship with 332 points. Bottas is second with 205 points and Verstappen is third with 189 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 540 points versus the 282 of Red Bull and 194 of McLaren.
The next round, the final round of the season, is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on this weekend at Yas Marina Circuit. Should Hamilton need to further remain in isolation, Mercedes has confirmed that Russell will get a second chance in his car.
2020 Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix
Below are the full results from the 2020 Formula One Sakhir Grand Prix:
1) Sergio Perez, Racing Point
2) Esteban Ocon, Renault +10.518 seconds
3) Lance Stroll, Racing Point +11.869 seconds
4) Carlos Sainz, McLaren +12.580 seconds
5) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault +13.330 seconds
6) Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing +13.842 seconds
7) Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri +14.534 seconds
8) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-Benz AMG +15.389 seconds
9) George Russell, Mercedes-Benz AMG +18.556 seconds
10) Lando Norris, McLaren +19.541 seconds
11) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri +20.527 seconds
12) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari +22.611 seconds
13) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo +24.111 seconds
14) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo +26.153 seconds
15) Kevin Magnussen, Haas +32.370 seconds
16) Jack Aitken, Williams +33.674 seconds
17) Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas +36.858 seconds
NC) Nicholas Latifi, Williams DNF
NC) Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing DNF
NC) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari DNF