Perez wins dramatic Sakhir GP, Ocon takes first podium finish

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Mexican Sergio Perez, who notably is still without a drive for 2021, has won his first F1 race of his career at the Sakhir Grand Prix, bouncing back from a heartbreaking engine failure from second place just a week ago. Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll joined him on a surprising podium.

When the lights went out for the race on the shortest track of the season, Bottas made another less than perfect start, allowing Russell to take the lead into Turn 1. Bottas had trouble accelerating out of Turn 2, backing up everybody behind him and allowing Russel to take a clear lead. Bottas's slide ended up into the 3-wide fight at Turn 3, in two rows, where Leclerc proved a bit optimistic and bumped into Perez who turned in just ahead of him.

Leclerc's left front suspension immediately broke, and Verstappen took avoiding action and went wide. He was already on the outside, and found out that off-track, there was absolutely no grip, sending him understeering into the barriers. With both cars stuck with broken suspensions, the safety car was brought out for 5.

As Perez pitted for new mediums, Sainz found himself in third, followed by Ricciardo, Kvyat, Stroll, Gasly, Ocon, Vettel and Norris.

At the restart on lap 7, Sainz challenged Bottas for second, and passed him into Turn 1, but a mistake out of Turn 2 allowed Bottas to get back into second.

A new few laps saw Russel and Bottas slowly pull away from the rest of the field. The pack behind, led by Sainz didn't manage to make any progress, as they all seemed to diligently follow the Spaniard's McLaren without even trying to make a pass.

The only man that managed to make some strides was Sergio Perez. From the back of the field, he moved up into 11th in just 5 laps, but then got a bit stuck behind Albon in 10th position. On lap 18, Perez eventually found a way past Albon as he got held up by Norris. The latter pitted one lap later and rejoined the track at the back on new medium tyres.

As of lap 25, many drivers opt to pit, with third placed Sainz doing so on lap 28, returning to the track in 9th with a fresh set of mediums. Ricciardo pits one lap later and did a bad affair by losing a position to Kvyat who switched to mediums 3 laps earlier.

As most changed to medium, Ocon, Vettel, Aitken and both Alfa Romeos chose hard tyres. Stroll was the last to get away with his soft from the start on lap 42, changing to fresh mediums and returning to the track in 9th, only to be passed by Ocon half a lap later.

Race leader Russell pitted on lap 45 and switched to hard tyres, coming back out in second with still 6.8s in hand over Perez who ended up third again. The Brit immediately recorded another fastest lap, 2 full seconds faster than what Bottas managed in the same lap on his old mediums.

Perez and Albon pitted the next lap, allowing Sainz to move back up into third, followed by Kvyat, Ricciardo and Gasly.

Bottas then also pitted and rejoined more than 8 seconds down the road of Russell.

When Latifi parked his car alongside the track with technical trouble, a short VSC period triggered another series of pitstops. For Vettel, it was another messy stop where the front left didn't get sorted quickly. Sainz, Ricciardo and Gasly were among the stoppers, with Ricciardo out ahead of both Kvyat after the Russian had stopped one lap before the VSC period. The trio sat in 7th to 9th.

These stops saw Perez move up in third again, followed by Ocon and Stroll with Albon in 6th more than 8s behind.

On lap 61, Aitken in the Williams returned to the pits missing his front wing. He lost it in the final corner where he hit the barriers. With the wing left out on track, a Virtual Safety car, and then a real safety car period started.

What followed was a pitstop mess at Mercedes, where Russell pitted and changed to mediums, forcing Bottas behind to wait a bit. That wasn't bad, but Bottas's stop saw the mechanics pit mediums on, only to change their minds as the stop went on, switching back to hards again. It dropped Bottas to 5th, but amazingly, Russell pitted from the lead again one lap later, returning to the track in 5th, for the first time this race behind Bottas.

The situation brought Perez in the lead, followed by Ocon and Stroll.

When the safety car left the track, Russell immediately seized the moment and passed Bottas through Turn 7 in a clean but decisive manner. At the end of the lap, the Mercedes driver already positioned himself in the slipstream of Stroll to move up into third, followed by Ocon a little more than a lap later in Turn 3.

Bottas on the other hand struggled badly to keep up the pace, to the extent that Sainz passed the Finn on lap 77, followed by Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat over the course of a single lap.

One lap later, Russell was even pitted one again due to a puncture on lap 79, dropping him back down into 15th position. Russell made great use of the soft tyres put on his car and rapidly moved forward, eventually still making a points finish by ending the race in 9th place, just behind Valtteri Bottas.

Overall, a wonderful result for Sergio Perez, as he enjoyed his first win in Formula One with Racing Point after the heartbreaking engine failure from the week before.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
111Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes871:31:15.11425
231Esteban OconRenault87+10.518s18
318Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes87+11.869s15
455Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault87+12.580s12
53Daniel RicciardoRenault87+13.330s10
623Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda87+13.842s8
726Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri Honda87+14.534s6
877Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG87+15.389s4
963George RussellMercedes AMG87+18.556s2
104Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault87+19.541s1
1110Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda87+20.527s0
125Sebastian VettelFerrari87+22.611s0
1399Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari87+24.111s0
147Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari87+26.153s0
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari87+32.370s0
1689Jack AitkenWilliams Mercedes87+33.674s0
1751Pietro FittipaldiHaas Ferrari87+36.858s0
NC6Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes52DNF0
NC33Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda0DNF0
NC16Charles LeclercFerrari0DNF0