Sakhir GP: Perez deserves driver of day accolade in astonishing race

Race winner Sergio Perez celebrates his maiden F1 victory in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir at Bahrain International Circuit. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Race winner Sergio Perez celebrates his maiden F1 victory in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir at Bahrain International Circuit. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Mario Renzi

• Sergio Perez became the 110th different winner in Formula 1 with victory in Bahrain on Sunday night.

• The Racing Point driver took advantage of uncharacteristic errors by Mercedes and took the lead on lap 62.

• Perez is without a seat for 2021 after the team announced he would be replaced by Sebastian Vettel.

George Russell's name flickered on screen as the driver of the day at Sunday's Sakhir Grand Prix, but it was Sergio Perez who deserved the award.

I understand why fans picked Russell ahead of the Mexican. It would've been the fairy tale win in the Mercedes almost everyone wanted to see, besides Valtteri Bottas of course.

We shouldn't scoff at Russell's performance, he scored his first-ever point in the sport and has a led more laps in 2020 than any other driver besides Mercedes' permanent duo.

Unfortunately for the Brit, the Mercedes team had a shocker. They put on the incorrect tyres on both cars during a Safety Car period and team boss Toto Wolff admitted: "it was a colossal fuck up."

And while Russell's contract to Williams until the end of 2022, the Sakhir GP winner Sergio Perez will bow out of the sport next Sunday in Abu Dhabi as Formula 1's 110th race winner.  

The Mexican has failed to secure a seat for next season after Sebastian Vettel was announced as his replacement earlier this year. Perez, at the time, said he found out the four-time world champion would join the team the night before media reported it. Perez also contracted Covid-19 earlier in the season when he returned his homeland, so it hasn't been a great year for Checo.

sergio perez
Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Racing Point celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir at Bahrain International Circuit on December 06, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

Yet on Sunday night, after 87 laps, he shed tears of joy at finally standing on the top step of the podium after 190 races. It was the most extended wait for victory in the sport's history, and Perez became the first Mexican driver to do since Pedro Rodriguez over 40 years ago.

The race was a breathless from start to finish. Perez's Racing Point suffered a massive shunt after Charles Leclerc's overzealous move on Max Verstappen into Turn 4. That fiasco put Perez at the back of the grid as he pitted for new rubber and charged through the field like a man desperately looking for an F1 seat next season.

Perez said a big lock-up during the first Safety Car period led to vibrations on his first stint. On his second stint, he praised the tremendous pace and said it felt like a limousine without the vibrations.  

Perez took full advantage of the shambolic Mercedes' double-stacking' pit stop fiasco on lap 62, and never looked back until rocking up in parc ferme and jumping on the glistening pink car.

All eyes might have been on Russell in the fastest car on the grid, but it was the 'Pink Mercedes' of Perez and Lance Stroll that bagged 40 constructors' points. Perez's win in Bahrain catapulted him to the fourth spot in the drivers' championship on 125 points.

Where to next?

The Mexican has been linked with a move to Red Bull and says he has options to return in 2022 if he doesn't land a drive next year. Alex Albon is still the front-runner for that spot next season, but nothing has been confirmed.

The team and the sport will sorely miss the Mexican's ability. "What happens is not so much in my hands at the moment, but I know, and I want to keep going," he told After his first win in F1, I'm sure he's not the only person who feels that way.

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