Sergio Pérez took a truly sublime Sakhir Grand Prix win. We review it here.

The Sportspedia

Sakhir, Bahrein

-Sergio Pérez (MEX) wins the Sakhir Grand Prix!

-First Mexican to win a Formula 1 World Championship race since 1970

Inefable victory by Sergio Pérez (MEX) at the F1 Sakhir Grand Prix. In this sport several factors have to come together for a driver to win a race but someone has to be there to execute and optimize. And no one in F1 -except maybe for Lewis Hamilton- optimizes better than Sergio Pérez.

Sergio Pérez’ victory is a dream come true for the F1 aficionados in México, and for the followers of the Silverstone team -ex Jordan, Midland, Spyker and Racing Point. It is a victory to enjoy the ups and downs of sport in general and motorsport in particular.

The Sakhir Grand Prix and Sergio’s victory are like a movie script where the spectators might think that so many factors are just not something that can happen in real life. But it did; it was not a dream.

We are talking about a middle team, about Sergio not having a team for next year, about taking advantage of not having the World Champion racing, and the mistakes of his team; we are talking about a driver going back to last after the first lap only to storm back through the field and win the race by over ten seconds…A week after his engine blew while he was third. What a story!

The configuration of this Sakhir “Outer Loop” made the first lap arguably the most important. The F2 races -where Mick Schumacher (DEU) became Champion- demonstrated that the risk of drivers running into each other was high. This, along with the possibility of traffic in Qualifying 1 were critical moments this week. Those and crossing the line first, of course.

Mercedes, a team that has been so dominant this year that it reminds us of the 1930’s Silver Arrows, started first albeit not with Covid-19 benched Lewis Hamilton (ENG). His super substitute, George Russell (ENG), started very well while Valtteri Bottas (FIN) slipped a bit. Max Verstappen (NED, Red Bull) and Sergio Pérez attacked.

Pérez took the external part of the straight preceding Turn 4 and overtook Verstappen. For a moment he was also ahead of Bottas. He proceeded to take the curve and Charles Leclerc (MCO, Ferrari), who missed the breaking a bit, ran into the Mexican driver, who spun. Verstappen tried to avoid them and went to the dirty part of the track. Both European drivers were out while Pérez had to pit. His suspension was not damaged by just a few centimeters.

As he made it to the pits he changed his red tires (softs) for yellows (mediums). These would hold on for longer and knowing Sergio’s driving style he could still make a great recovery with a one-stop strategy.

The race restarted on lap 7 and Carlos Sainz (ESP, McLaren) tried to pressure the Mercedes to no avail. Behind him we had Daniel Ricciardo (AUS, Renault), Daniil Kvyat (RUS, AlphaTauri) and Lance Stroll (CAN, Racing Point). Pérez started to overtake everyone. By lap 20 of 87 he was already in the top 10, taking advantage of his Mercedes engine, good for the long straights here.

A lap alter he overtook Alex Albon (THA, Red Bull) masterfully. Albon is indeed the driver who he is battling the Red Bull seat with for 2021. Sergio was ninth now. From there on he had to get close to the group ahead of him to be on DRS position. He entered the pits on lap 47 entró a pits to put on white tires (hard). He was still ninth.

By lap 55 Sergio was already seventh after other drivers pitted and he was already close to the drivers ahead of him when Nicholas Latifi (CAN, Williams) had a mechanical problem that made him park the car next to the track. Pierre Gasly (FRA, AlphaTauri), Kvyat, Sainz y Ricciardo took advantage of this to pit. Sergio was fifth now.

Now ahead of him was Lance Stroll, his teammate and the team owner’s son. There was no ned of a fraternal battle since Stroll made a mistake in a turn with his used tires and Sergio passed him for fourth. Ahead of him now was his former teammate Esteban Ocon (FRA, Renault), someone he has crashed with before. He used the DRS and passed him by the outside, lap 57. He was already in podium position but half a minute behind the leaders. Not even a pitstop by the leaders would have given enough to give him the lead, unless something exceptional would happen.

And it did. On lap 63 the débutante Jack Aitken (ENG) lost control of his car, crashed and lost the front wing, triggering a yellow flag. The Mercedes had to take advantage of this contingency and called both cars to pit. They had a slow 5.3 pitstop for Russell which made Bottas lose time. But this was not much time compared to his pitstop. The team made a mistake with his front left tire and they had to change it twice. He was stopped for so long that his brakes caught fire. Russell was first and Bottas fifth now.

But they had put the incorrect tires on both cars! That meant Mercedes had to call Russell in during the safety car period. Checo was first now! The Silver Arrows looked vulnerable! The restart was on lap 69: Pérez, Ocon, Stroll, Bottas, Russell. There was enough time for the Mercedes to win. Russell attacked Bottas again and on lap 70 he passed him with an excellent overtaking manoeuvre on the inside of turn 7.

Not it was Stroll’s time to work as a team and hold the Mercedes off. He tried to cover his line but Russell overtook him. Checo was 3.7 seconds ahead. Russell was still dangerous. On lap 73 he passed Ocon relatively easy and he was 3.4 seconds behind Checo. He got closer and with ten laps to go he as 2.2 behind. That meant he needed two tenths a lap to get right behind him. He was more or less in that rhythm but getting close does not mean overtaking.

On the next lap he kept the distance. But that would not be enough! The Mercedes suffered with the used yellows and Bottas went back to ninth..And Russell had a blown engine on lap 79! He had to pit! Everything seemed under control for Pérez!

And that’s what happened. The rest was just making the dream come true. Running in a sublime way, the Guadalajara native did not just hold the distance but he opened an advantage of more than ten seconds over Ocon by lap 87. He crossed the line first! A Mexican win in Formula 1! He was followed by Ocon and Stroll.

This was a great result for Racing Point, who now are in a solid third in the Constructors’ Championship while Sergio is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. And he cannot be worse than fifth after the final race next week.

A historic victory for Mexican motorsport! Since the great Pedro Rodríguez win the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix the Mexican National Anthem had not been heard in F1 and since the 1971 Spring Trophy at Oulton Park no Mexican had won.

It had to be like that. Like a movie script.

Resultados oficiales:

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 BottasMERCEDES87+15.389s4
963George RussellMERCEDES87+18.556s3
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
NC16Charles LeclercFERRARI0DNF0

Note – Russell scored a point for the fastest lap.