Perez wins chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix amid Mercedes disaster: as it happened


A nightmare evening for Mercedes opened the door for rivals at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, and it was Sergio Perez who took advantage to win his first-ever F1 race

Sergio Perez after winning the 2020 Sakhir Grand prix

olga Bozoglu/Getty Images

The alternate Bahrain layout put on a show and one of the most chaotic races of the year as an emotional Sergio Perez won his maiden Formula 1 race, having been last at the end of lap one.

The Mexican put in a heroic recovery drive through the field and profited as others hit bad luck, but it was a night of what could have been for George Russell.

Standing in for the world champion Lewis Hamilton, Russell gave the race a familiar start, as he propelled his black Mercedes into the lead. It would remain that way until things fell apart for the team with uncharacteristic mistakes and dreadful luck.

Russell may have imagined about the possibilities on Saturday night but his start from the front row of the grid was really the stuff of dreams.

A great initial launch gave Russell enough momentum to go into Turn One side-by-side with Valtteri Bottas who then got out of shape through Turn Two. It gave those behind a great run up to Turn Four.

George Russell leads at the start of the 2020 Sakhir Grand prix

Russell led away but Bottas was under attack at the start

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc were all shaping up a move at the top of the hill but contact between the Racing Point and Ferrari driver broke Leclerc’s front suspension and put him out on the spot.

Red Bull’s hopes were left in the barriers too. In his eagerness to rejoin the track after taking avoiding action, the Dutchman got onto the gravel and slid helplessly into the barriers and out of the race.

The safety car was out to recover the Ferrari and Red Bull and gave Russell the chance to ask race engineer Pete Bonnington where the overtake button was as he prepared to lead the restart.

The safety car was in on lap seven and Russell chose to go early, catching Bottas off guard, but Carlos Sainz was right on the gearbox of the Finn and took second briefly into Turn One with a tow.

Valtteri Bottas battles with Carlos Sainz in the 2020 Sakhir Grand prix

Sainz and Bottas fought at the restart

Florent Gooden / DPPI

It was short-lived as the Spaniard ran deep and lost the spot just as quickly, but it did allow the leader to escape out of DRS range.

Sebastian Vettel relegated Alex Albon to 11th position to continue the woeful start to the race for the Red Bull team as Russell set a string of fastest laps out in front.

Kimi Räikkönen showed that passes were possible in the middle sector, pulling off a great move to go around the outside of Jack Aitken in the Williams on lap 10 in a case of youth versus experience.

Albon recovered back past Vettel two laps after he lost the spot and the Ferrari was quickly on the defensive as Perez’s recovery continued through the field.

A lock-up into Turn Seven opened the door for the Racing Point man, and Perez was through into P11 and 13sec off of the lead following his first lap drama.

Carlos Sainz overtakes Kimi Taikkonen in the 2020 Sakhir Grand prix

Perez had to fight from the back after first lap collision with Leclerc

Florent Gooden / DPP

Sainz’s great start and the misfortune of others brought the McLaren up to third but he was complaining over the radio that the electrical deployment was not working as he might have liked.

By lap 15, a DRS-train had emerged behind the third-place man with the Mercedes duo clear out front” Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly all in the hunt for the final podium place.

The sister McLaren was in a similar situation in the battle for ninth place, with Albon and Perez stuck behind but with better pace on the medium tyres versus Norris’ softs.

Related article

Albon was alongside with the help of DRS into Turn Four and pulled off his move around the outside into Five, leaving Norris off line and Perez there to pick up the pieces. Norris was in at the end of lap 21 for fresh rubber.

One lap later and Perez moved clear of the man whose seat he’d love in 2021, pulling off an identical move on the Anglo-Thai driver into Turn Five to take ninth position.

Russell was keeping his composure out in front as the gap between the two Mercedes fluctuated between 1.8-2sec as the pair exchanged fastest laps.

Norris’ early stop had opened the pit stop window early and the runners further back began a chain reaction on lap 27 that slowly dragged others in.

Kimi Räikkönen, Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Giovinazzi all pitted and opened the window for the top 10 runners as Sainz and Gasly in on lap 29 for a swap onto medium tyres.

Ricciardo had been called in on the lap before but missed the radio message and it cost the Renault man, rejoining ninth behind Kvyat.

Daniel Ricciardo with Daniil Kvyat in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Ricciardo lost out to Kvyat in the pits

Dan Istitene/F1 via Getty Images

Vettel was the first of the medium runners to pit on lap 33, feeding out into 13th position one lap down, with the Mercedes yet to stop.

Russell had the gap to Bottas up to 2.7sec by lap 38, and had the upper hand, reporting that his tyres were fine, while the Finn complained of wear on the fronts.

Esteban Ocon switched to the hard tyres on lap 42 from fourth position after being unable to find a way past third-placed Stroll, despite his soft tyres being 43 laps old.

Racing Point responded on the next lap and got their man out ahead on mediums, but the Renault had the tyre temperature to make a move up at Turn Four around the outside to take ninth.

A second stop for Perez shortly afterwards fed him out into ninth place, behind Stroll and Ocon.

Russell was in on lap 46 and remembered to stop in the first box. He fed back into second behind Bottas.

His stop was flawless but followed by a brief heart-in-mouth moment where he reported a loss of power. That was fixed with a power setting adjustment. A fastest lap on lap 48 with his new hard tyres put his fears to bed and reduced the gap to Bottas to 16sec, with his team-mate still to stop.

Bottas eventually came in on lap 50 and rejoined on hard tyres but 8.5sec behind the leader, compared with the 3sec it had been prior to the stops.

Both Mercedes drivers were warned about using kerbs in Turns Seven and Eight after sensors picked up an overload on their left track rods. More power issues for Russell on the straights cost him a second to Bottas on laps 54 and 55.

Latifi was the next retiree on lap 55, bringing out the virtual safety car as he parked up on the exit of Turn Nine.

McLaren and Ferrari took advantage, stopping Norris and Vettel but a second slow stop for Vettel erased any benefits, thanks to a front-left wheel that was slow to attach.

Sainz also missed out, as the VSC ended as he entered the pitlane. He made his second stop under green flag conditions, dropping him to seventh, below Ocomn and the Racing Points.

Perez was the man on the move on the resumption of racing, clearing Stroll and Ocon on back-to-back laps at Turn Four and clawing his way back into the podium places, just 55 laps after rejoining in last.

The restart cost Russell a further three seconds as Bottas nailed the switch back to racing conditions, cutting the lead down to 5.5sec by lap 60.

But much worse was to come when a safety car was deployed on lap 63 for debris on track as Aitken lost the front wing on his Williams after spinning at the last corner and tagging the exit wall.

A late call for Mercedes to double-stack both of their drivers on the same lap proved catastrophic for the team.

Flames from Valtteri Bottas' brakes as he makes a pitstop at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

It all went wrong in the pits for Mercedes. Bottas was sent out with his old tyres

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Russell arrived and left on medium tyres, followed in immediately by Bottas, who was also fitted with medium tyres, but not released after frantic waving by the mechanic on the front-left.

The tyres were eventually taken of and the hard tyres, which Bottas had come in with, were then fitted again to the Mercedes which, by now, had flames coming from its overheating brakes.

He had been idle for almost half a minute by the time he left, and it soon became clear what the issue had been, as George Russell was called in again, having been fitted with the tyres meant for Bottas

and it was immediately clear that something was wrong. He was left idle in the box for almost half a minute.

It left Bottas in fifth ahead of Russell. Ahead of the restart on lap 69, the order of the top 10 was: Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Bottas, Russell, Sainz, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Gasly, and Albon.

Perez led the restart without challenge but Russell was all over Bottas. The Finn ran deep at Turn Four on lap 70, leaving him off line and the gap — at a tricky part of the circuit — gave his temporary team-mate the chance to overtake.

Russell nosed next to Bottas in the swap back between Turns Five and Six, taking the inside line for Turn Seven, and fourth place. Ahead of him were Ocon and the Racing Points and Ocon, with 17 laps to catch and pass them for the win.

He dispatched Stroll on the next lap with DRS assistance into Turn One for third place and was by Ocon on lap 73 on the run-up to Turn Four with more DRS help. Perez was 3.4sec up the road and Russell was on a charge: he set the fastest lap of the race as he overtook Ocon.

In clear air, a string of low 56sec laps brought the gap down to 2.2sec with 10 laps remaining.

Bottas on his old hard tyres was headed in the other direction; the chasing Sainz was complaining how slow the Mercedes was and eventually passed him, followed by Ricciardo on lap 78. Albon and Kvyat were also quickly past him for sixth and seventh.

It was miserable viewing for Mercedes, but nowhere near as much as what happened on lap 79, when a puncture to Russell’s rear right tyre was detected; his hopes of victory deflating at the same time.

Another pit stop left him 14th and 5sec off of the top 10.

George Russell makes a pitstop at the 2020 Sakhir Grand prix

Russell had to make a fourth stop after a puncture was detected

Mark Thompson/Getty Image

Now on softs, he reeled off fastest lap after fastest lap as he muscled past the Alfa Romeos and Vettel. With two laps left, Gasly — in the final points-paying position — was in sight.

On the penultimate lap, Russell moved by the AlphaTauri for tenth, and then passed Norris for ninth on the final lap to at least secure his first-ever points finish in F1.

Ahead, in the Russell will rightfully think should have been his, Perez led masterfully from the safety car restart, to complete his own brilliant comeback through the field to win the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Ocon was second, in his first-ever podium finish and Racing Point secured its first double-podium result to take vital points in the constructors’ championship race for third.

2020 F1 Sakhir Grand Prix race results

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1hr 31min 15.114sec 25
2 Esteban Ocon Renault +10.518sec 18
3 Lance Stroll Racing Point +11.869sec 15
4 Carlos Sainz McLaren +12.580sec 12
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +13.330sec 10
6 Alex Albon Red Bull +13.842sec 8
7 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri +14.543sec 6
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +15.389sec 4
9 George Russell Mercedes +18.556sec 3*
10 Lando Norris McLaren +19.541sec 1
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +20.527sec
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +22.611sec
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +24.111sec
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +26.153sec
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas +32.370sec
16 Jack Aitken Williams +33.674sec
17 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas +36.858sec
Nicholas Latifi Williams DNF
Max Verstappen Red Bull DNF
Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF

*Includes additional point for fastest lap