The “Outer Circuit” of the Bahrain International Circuit made its debut to finish off a chaotic first week of December.
2020 world champion Lewis Hamilton missed the first race of his career after racing in the previous 265. Williams driver George Russell took his place on the starting grid, attempting to gain his first career points finish in Formula 1. Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi filled in for Russell at Williams and Romain Grosjean at Haas as he continues to recover from his horrific crash last week.
Sergio Perez continues to fight for a seat in 2021 and today, he helped his case as he won the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The first lap saw Russell get past Valtteri Bottas to start the race. Bottas held up Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. Leclerc locked up and spun Perez, causing Verstappen to crash off the track.
Perez headed to pit lane while Leclerc and Verstappen were forced to retire, the fourth and fifth DNFs for the two drivers in 2020. Lando Norris moved up to 10th before the safety car after starting 19th due to an engine change. Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo moved up to third and fourth place.
Russell led after the safety car and attempted to build his lead over Bottas. The AlphaTauri drivers moved up the grid as Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly ran fifth and seventh. Perez worked his way back into the top 10 after having to pit during the safety car. On lap 22, Perez passed Alexander Albon for ninth.
Kvyat, who is fighting to retain his seat at AlphaTauri next season, overtook Ricciardo after pit stops with the fastest lap of the race through 32. Esteban Ocon passed Lance Stroll after pit stops on lap 43 for ninth place.
A few laps later, Mercedes brought in Russell and Bottas into the pits with Russell coming in first. Russell built his lead over eight seconds once Bottas completed his stop. After everyone made their stops, Sainz ran third followed by Kvyat, Ricciardo and Ocon. Kvyat pitted again on lap 54, came out 10th behind Norris.
One lap later, Nicholas Latifi spun out to bring out the Virtual Safety Car. Sainz and Ricciardo pitted during it but the race became green immediately after they pitted. It dropped them outside the top five as Perez and Ocon moved up. Perez passed Ocon for third on lap 57.
Chaos ensued a few laps later as Aitken lost his wing, forcing the safety car to be brought out. Mercedes decided to double stack their drivers on pit road. Russell had to pit again after they put the wrong tires on his car and Bottas was stuck on pit road for 27.4 seconds after the tire placement went wrong. Bottas and Russell came off fourth and fifth as Perez, Ocon and Stroll ran in the top three under the safety car.
Russell got past Bottas on lap 70 after a bold move on the outside, then passed Stroll for third two laps later. Russell passed Ocon on the next lap for second. Perez held the lead over Russell as tragedy struck for Russell as a tire puncture forced him to pit again. He was able to work his way into ninth at the end, achieving the fastest lap of the race.
Perez won the Sakhir Grand Prix by nearly 10 seconds, his first race win in his F1 career.. Esteban Ocon finished second to pick up his first career podium. The driver who replaced Ocon at Racing Point (then Force India) two years ago, Stroll, finished third to pick up his third career podium and the second this season.
Sainz and Ricciardo finished fourth and fifth. Albon finished sixth as with Perez winning the race, his future with Red Bull is now in serious doubt. Kvyat finished seventh, his second-best result of 2020. Bottas and Russell finished eighth and ninth after disaster struck at the end of the race. Norris passed Pierre Gasly for 10th at the end of the race to pick up the final point.
The 2020 Formula 1 season will wrap end next Sunday with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.