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.
Ricciardo had been called in on the lap before but missed the radio message and it cost the Renault man, rejoining ninth behind Kvyat.
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.
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.
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
|1||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||1hr 31min 15.114sec||25|
|3||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+11.869sec||15|
|6||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+13.842sec||8|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+24.111sec|
|14||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||+26.153sec|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||DNF|
*Includes additional point for fastest lap