“It just gives me a bit more peace with myself to be honest. What happens is not so much in my hands at the moment, but I know and I want to keep going.”
Many had predicted that Perez would become a grand prix winner much earlier in his career following stand-out performances such as the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix in which he finished runner-up to Fernando Alonso, but it was a popular result on Sunday night for a driver without a drive he surely deserves for 2021.
Red Bull’s plans for 2021
Perez might be resigned to a year out of F1 next season but several scenes throughout the Sakhir GP weekend suggests Red Bull’s 2021 plans might not be settled just yet.
Albon’s disappointing performance throughout the weekend could not have been timed worse as Perez secured his first F1 win, and patience may be running a little low at a team that has been brutal with its young drivers in the past.
A premature exit in Q2 for the Anglo-Thai driver elicited a shake of the head from team principal Christian Horner, who had defended his driver in the build-up to the weekend.
Horner confirmed last week that no decision on its second seat would be formalised until after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and that the team was eager to see Albon succeed. He also added that Perez was not out of the running just yet.
Could the brief conversation in the paddock between Perez and Dr Helmut Marko on Friday following FP3 have been something more than a quick catch up ahead of qualifying?
Norris’ super start
The eyes at the start were all on George Russell as he took the lead from Valtteri Bottas, but further back, Lando Norris was wasting no time in making up positions.
Having been sent to the back of the grid due to an engine penalty, Norris was quickly making places and was one of the big winners at the end of lap one.
With Perez’s contact with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen finding the barriers, Norris was up to 10th from 19th on the grid by the end of the opening tour.
A perfect launch on soft tyres split the two Williams’ off the line and Kimi Raikkonen’s spin out of Turn Three cleared the inside of the track for Norris to brake deep into Turn Four versus those around him.
He made up another two positions on exit as Alex Albon made brief contact with Kevin Magnussen and forced the Dane out wide, and a chance to sweep around the outside of the Red Bull into Turn Five to secure P10 was completed by the time the safety car was deployed.
Unfortunately for the McLaren driver, it was the peak of his night and he struggled to keep his McLaren in check over the following 81 laps as rivals hit their stride.
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He had dominated the opening phase of the grand prix and led well into the second stint from his vastly more experienced team-mate, but George Russell’s evening turned for the worst as the second safety car of the race was deployed on lap 63 to recover the broken front wing from Jack Aitken’s Williams.
Russell arrived in the Mercedes pit box but ran deep and overshot his marks. He revealed after the race that he’d forgotten to change the brake balance rearward after the safety car had been deployed leading to the minor error, but a breakdown in communication at Mercedes had catastrophic consequences.