Zakhir, Bahrain – Sergio Perez was calm amid the chaos at the notable Zakhir Grand Prix on Sunday to claim his first Formula One career victory in his 190th race.
Racing point driver 10.5 seconds ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon, and 11.9 clear from teammate and Montreal native Lance Strol.
“I’m speechless,” Perez said. “I hope I dream.”
The Mexican will not even have an F1 seat next year to replace Sebastian Vettel.
“I want to continue,” Perez said. “If I’m not on the grid next year, I’m in 2022.”
George Russell looked to have won a stunning Mercedes debut with confidence, while the security car was on track with 25 laps until his team made a terrible mistake after bringing him and Valteri Botas for another change.
Russell’s stop was a bit slow, but nothing compared to the Botas, which took 27 seconds as the mechanics didn’t fit his left front tire properly. Interestingly, Russell was called back because the team fitted him with Botas tires.
This is a rare failure for the Mercedes team that has dominated the F1 since 2014 by winning every Drivers and Constructors Championship.
However, even with that accident, Russell roared superbly from fifth to second and had eight laps left in the tire behind him as he closed Perez.
Perez, who made his debut in 2011, scored a clear run to victory and picked up his 10th career podium, while O’Connor took first place.
“I have no words,” O’Connor said. “I’m crying on the line.”
While Russell was ninth, Botas was eighth in the humiliating night for the F1 powerhouse Mercedes, which never makes mistakes. Stewards are investigating after-race an illegal composite tire change for Russell.
Russell has a contract with Williams, but replaces seven-time world champion Coronavirus in place of Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, who closed the title last month, is doubtful for the Abu Dhabi GP to end the season next weekend.
The race was stopped after a first-lap crash by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who broke down very quickly and crashed into Perez’s car. Max Verstappen had to go wide to avoid Perez and he went into some gravel and crashed into the wall.
Verstappen kicked the wall in frustration and then spoke to Leclerk.
“I do not know why they are so aggressive,” Verstappen said passionately. “It was like the last lap. I don’t know why Charles thinks he can break so late. ”
Leclerc fired by his teammate Sebastian Vettel for cutting him off in the Bahrain GP last weekend, but he pleaded guilty on Sunday.
“If anyone is wrong it is me,” he said. “I was next to Max and tried to break in a little earlier than him.”
Leclerc was given a three-position grid position drop for the next race.
Ahead, Russell gave a great start from the second and overtook the pole-sitter Botas, but two Mercedes cars crashed earlier than the Verstappen and this did not deter him.
Haas driver Pietro Fittipaldi finished 17th in his F1 debut replacing the injured Romain Grosjean, who was lucky enough to walk away from the horrific crash when his car exploded in a car accident last Sunday.
Russell was replaced by Jack Aitken at Williams and 16th in his debut.
Drivers will again run at the Bahrain International Circuit in Zakhir, but instead of 5.4 (3.3 miles) on the 3.5km (2.2 miles) short track, and with 54 to 87 laps.
Halfway through, Russell drove Botas for almost three seconds and was on the beach home.
But the drama had only just begun.
With 26 laps left, Batus Russell reduced the lead to five seconds as the virtual safety car came out after the Aitken front wing spin.
Despite being 1-2 in the race, Mercedes called two drivers for a second tire change to take advantage of the safety driver situation. While panic and faulty tires go over Russell’s car, permanence is required during F1 to attach to the front left Botas car.
Hiccups put Perez in the lead, finishing third in Bahrain a week after his engine exploded.
Clearly angry at the situation, Russell used an explosive when he told his race engineer that his new tires were going fast.
When the security car pulled away on Lap 70, Russell overtook Botas with a stunning move inside, and then zoomed past strolls and ocans with Hamilton’s admirable thrill.
He now has 13 laps to catch Perez 3.5 seconds earlier.
After a few laps, it was 2.5 seconds, and then the tire puncture ended Russell’s chances.
Ferrari day was miserable because Vettel interrupted another slow pit stop and released very carelessly, causing him to almost crash into the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.
Perez, above all, remembers the race.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for many years. It took me 10 years,” Perez said after his victory. “I feel like a limousine to a car.”
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