F1 backmarker George Russell took advantage of his part-time drive for Mercedes to take command of the opening half of the Sakhir Grand Prix. Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas made a poor start which allowed Russell into the lead. Bottas then flustered out of turn two which allowed Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc to close up. Bottas, Perez and Leclerc entered turn 4 at the same time with Verstappen keeping a watching brief closely behind. But Leclerc sent a last-minute, late braking kamikaze move on the inside of Perez leading to a collision that shunted Perez down to last and ended with Leclerc and Verstappen in the tyre barrier.
The safety car was temporarily brought out and at the restart, Russell made an unflustered getaway. Bottas didn’t and fell down to third after being hustled by the McLaren of Carlos Sainz. Sainz then made a mistake a few corners later and Bottas was back into second. By lap 14 the race resumed a normal pattern. Mercedes superiority. Russell and Bottas entered a race of their own. The Mercedes drivers traded times with one another but it was Russell who had the edge.
But the ease in which Mercedes dominated the Sakhir Grand Prix was ended by the ease in which they can stuff things up. When Mercedes gets it wrong they get it wrong big time. Lap 64 was the team’s Little Big Horn. Under safety car conditions, Mercedes gave the race away after pitting by mixing up tyre compounds. As a result, Russell had to pit twice, the second time due to a puncture, and Bottas was forced to resume on race-worn tyres. This was amateur hour from a well-drilled multi-championship winning Mercedes team.
And so the race fell to Sergio Perez who put in a fighting performance, coming from the back of the grid to secure his first-ever victory in Formula 1. The irony is the Racing Point driver doesn’t have a drive for 2021. Esteban Ocon finished 2nd with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll taking third. Bottas struggled on his tyres finishing a meager 8th and George Russell rallied from 15th to eventually finish 9th.
As we always say, Sunday is when races and podiums are won and lost, Sergio Perez won fair and square while Mercedes succumbed to the pressure when they were under no pressure at all. The great one race unraveling was all of their own making.
2020 Sakhir Grand Prix: Results
|1||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||87||1:31:15.114||25|
|3||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||87||+11.869s||15|
|4||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||87||+12.580s||12|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||87||+13.842s||8|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||87||+14.534s||6|
|10||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||87||+19.541s||1|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||87||+20.527s||0|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||87||+24.111s||0|
|14||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||87||+26.153s||0|
|15||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||87||+32.370s||0|
|16||89||Jack Aitken||Williams Mercedes||87||+33.674s||0|
|17||51||Pietro Fittipaldi||Haas Ferrari||87||+36.858s||0|
|NC||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||52||DNF||0|
|NC||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||0||DNF||0|
* Provisional results. Note – Russell scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.