Perez takes first F1 win in dramatic Sakhir GP

Mercedes tyre error costs George Russell and Valtteri Bottas

Sergio Perez recovered from an early incident which dropped him to the back of the field to take his first win in F1 at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

He was joined on the podium by Renault’s Esteban Ocon, who finished in the top three for the first time, and his Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll.

The unlikely podium lineup came following a costly mistake by Mercedes in the pitlane, leaving Valtteri Bottas and George Russell down the order.

Russell made a quick get away from second on the grid, and claimed the inside line at turn one to move in front of his teammate and lead the race.

There was drama a couple of turns later when Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc came together, causing damage to the front of the Ferrari and sending Leclerc into the barrier. Max Verstappen took evasive action to avoid Perez, but he ran too wide and followed Leclerc into the barrier.

The incident brought out the safety car, with Russell making a blistering restart to open up a lead and get out of DRS range at the front of the field, while Bottas came under pressure from Carlos Sainz in third. The McLaren driver briefly got ahead, but ran wide on the exit, forcing him to hand the place back.

Perez’s collision with Leclerc left him at the back of the field, but with the safety car back in the pitlane, he was able to make his way back up the order, following Alexander Albon past Lando Norris, before also passing the Red Bull driver.

The battle for the podium places saw Daniel Ricciardo close up behind Sainz, with Daniil Kvyat just behind the duo. The Russian was the first to pit, forcing Sainz and Ricciardo to follow over the next two laps to cover off the undercut. Sainz managed to rejoin ahead of the AlphaTauri, but Kvyat put in a couple of fast lap times on his new tyres to move him ahead of Ricciardo.

Russell pitted from the lead, and reported a loss of power after rejoining the track, but Mercedes were able to talk him through a reset on the steering wheel to allow him to get back up to pace.

By the time Bottas stopped, Russell had increased his lead to more than eight seconds, but continued to struggle with low power on the straights.

As those in the midfield started their second round of pitstops, Nicholas Latifi suffered a loss of power, leaving his Williams stricken at the side of the track, resulting in a virtual safety car. There was a mad dash to the pitlane, with Sainz missing out as he came into the pits just as the VSC period ended, leaving him behind the Racing Points.

Perez did manage to make his second stop under the VSC, and quickly pulled off overtakes to get ahead of his teammate and Esteban Ocon, moving him up to third.

There was another safety car needed just a couple of laps later when Jack Aitken spun and clipped the tyre barrier, leaving his front wing in the middle of the track.

Mercedes brought both cars into the pitlane for fresh tyres, having to double stack the drivers, with Russell in first. However, there was confusion among the pit crew, and Russell was sent back out with Bottas’s tyres. The mix-up had a knock-on effect with Bottas’s stop as the team struggled to find tyres to put on the Finn’s car, leaving his brakes to catch fire during a 27-second stop.

It meant Russell had to come straight back into the pits to have the correct tyres fitted, dropping him down to fifth and promoting Perez to the lead. With new tyres though, he made swift progress once the safety car had left the track, moving back up to second and closing the gap to the Racing Point driver. 

There was further tyre drama for Russell though, as he picked up a rear puncture while just two seconds behind Perez, forcing him to make yet another trip into the pitlane, and dropping him down to 15th.

The Brit charged back through the field to make sure he didn’t miss out on his first F1 points finish, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.

Provisional classification:

1 Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

2. Esteban Ocon (Renault)

3. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)

4. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)

5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)

6. Alex Albon (Red Bull)

7. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)

8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

9. George Russell (Mercedes)

10. Lando Norris (McLaren)

11. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

12. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)

13. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

16. Jack Aitken (Williams)

17. Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas)


Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

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