Sakhir GP – Perez wins rollercoaster race, Russell cruelly denied

A tearful Sergio Perez won his maiden F1 victory in a stunning comeback win from the back of the grid, while George Russell was cruelly denied a maiden win by two tyre issues.

After 189 race starts, Perez becomes the first Mexican to win a Grand Prix since 1970. He was involved in a collision at the start which sent Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen out of the race, and pitted to the back of the field.

However, his win was heavily aided by a slate of bad luck for Russell, who’d done enough to win the race twice over and led over 60 laps.

George Russell had produced a drive worthy of the seven-time champion he’s standing in for, after overcoming a botched pitstop he looked set to overtake the Mexican in the closing laps to take his maiden victory.

He suffered a heartbreaking puncture with less than ten laps to go though, which meant he could only finish ninth, pending an investigation.

That allowed Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll onto the podium, the career-first podium for Ocon after a tough year.

The defining moment of the race came on lap 58 after Jack Aitken – Russell’s replacement at Wiliams – lost control at turn 11 and chopped his front wing off the barrier.

Mercedes pitted both drivers and double-stacked the stop and but got the tyre sets mixed up between their two drivers and sent Russell out with a mixed set of tyres, so the Brit then had to pit again. Russell is now under investigation for the tyre mixup which could result in a time penalty or disqualification.

Valtteri Bottas suffered a 27-second pit stop as the pitcrew realised their mistake and had to switch the sets. He went out on old hard tyres and dropped to fifth, while Russell was down to sixth after his stop.

Russell launched a blistering fight back through the field while Bottas struggled, the Brit was two seconds away from Perez when the puncture came through, which dropped him right down to the back and the condensed pack.

Meanwhile Perez had experience a similar situation at the other end of the race. On the opening lap, Charles Leclerc launched an ill-judged dive up the inside of turn four as the Mexican hit the apex.

That sent both drivers wide and gave Leclerc terminal damage, while Max Verstappen attempted to avoid the incident but then got onto the gravel, and couldn’t stop himself hitting the wall.

Perez pitted but soon shot back into the top ten, going long on hard tyres which allowed him to rise further up the order once drivers pitted. Once the first round of stops had shaken out, Esteban Ocon was ahead of Lance Stroll for third place, which Perez then caught and passed.

That put him in prime position to benefit from Mercedes’ blunder, while Esteban Ocon was in the right place at the right time and could make the one-stop work.

Valtteri Bottas was outperformed by his new teammate in all areas, slowly slipping back through the race and then unable to do anything in the sprint to the end on old hard tyres.

After Nicholas Latifi retired on lap 52, a VSC was briefly brought out, but ended at the wrong time for Carlos Sainz, who had been briefly second after the first safety car restart.

He fell down the order but recovered to finish fourth, somewhat softening the blow for McLaren in the constructors championship.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo was never a feature in the battle outside of the Mercedes but rounded out the top five.

Possibly the biggest loser of the weekend was Alex Albon who’ll be under heightened pressure for his 2021 Red Bull seat now his main competitor has won a race.

He ran off at the start and should’ve been in the fight for the win given the normal contenders’ bad luck, but other than a good battle with Sainz and Perez, was off the pace for much of the race.

He finished sixth, while Daniil Kvyat finished a quietly strong weekend one place behind. Lando Norris was another notable absentee from the top five fight, he started from the back of the grid with engine penalties and despite McLaren mixing up his strategy, could only take a solitary point.

Of the two rookies, Jack Aitken had the best race but will ultimately be remembered for tipping the dominos that cost Russell his win. Despite bringing up the tail of the field after his crash, he finished 16th while Pietro Fittipaldi was the last finisher.