Sakhir Grand Prix 2020: Maiden wins, heartbreak and disaster for Mercedes!

The Bahrain Grand Prix was indeed one of the most memorable races in the 2020 Formula 1 season. But with Lewis Hamilton missing the Sakhir GP, the F1 community has been bustling and discussing which driver is going to step in for him. When Mercedes announced that George Russell will step in for Lewis, there was relief and excitement among the fans. Most of them hoping the Briton will get his first win. Haas F1 team later announced that Romain Grosjean will not continue racing in Abu Dhabi and will head back to his family.  

We all thought that this race is going to be a sweet maiden win for Mercedes' George Russell starting in P2 after stepping in for Covid-stricken Lewis Hamilton. He said in a post that he was gutted that he missed the pole position by mere milliseconds. Before the race, George stated that he would be happy if he is within the top four in the first corner. Russell appeared to be leading for a maiden win as he managed to overtake his new teammate Valtteri Bottas at the first corner of the first lap. Then holding a comfortable lead of five seconds over his team-mate. 

A couple of turns into lap 1, the Safety Car was deployed after the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc clipped the back of Sergio Perez' Racing Point. The spin caused Max Verstappen to steer clear of Perez and in doing so, sliding into the barriers along with Leclerc who damaged his front left suspension after the collision with Perez. Sergio was the only one to be able to continue on the race. He pitted for fresh tires after that. 

After the Safety Car went into the pits, Russell handled the restart very well from Bottas. His teammate Valterri Bottas struggled with the traction as Carlos Sainz went around him. Carlos Sainz' Mclaren cannot hold the position. He ran wide and allowed Bottas to take the position. At the mid-field battle, Sergio Perez blast past a couple of cars to be able to get back to the top 10. 

The brilliant drive from George Russell became a disaster when he and Bottas pitted. The pit crew tried double stacking Russell and Bottas, causing confusion on the set of tires. Russell needed to pit again for he has the wrong set of tires. The disaster pit stop cost him the lead of the race and Sergio Perez inherited the lead of the race. Russell emerged at 5th behind his teammate which he passed at turn 7. From there, George Russell powered past Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon just under 20 laps remaining on the race. 

George Russell was catching Sergio Perez who has a 3-second gap out in front when he suffered a rear tire puncture. The team called out to pit him with 8 laps to go. And the hopes of winning the race have all gone for George Russell. He emerged at 14th but still, he fought back until the chequered flag to finish P9 behind his teammate Bottas in P8. The Mercedes pit stop drama allowed Sergio Perez to claim his maiden win after 190 races. 

“I’m a bit speechless. I hope I’m not dreaming you know because I dreamed so many years of being in this moment. Ten years, ten years it took me. Incredible. I mean, I don’t know what to say.

“After the first lap, the race was again gone, same as last weekend. But it was all about not giving up, recovering, going for it, just making the best of what you possibly could. This season the luck hasn’t been with us, but we finally got it. I think today we were on merit. Yes, the Mercs had some issues but in the end, my pace was strong enough to hold George – who did a fantastic race today” says Sergio Perez. 

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team was fined 20,000 euros for the pit stop confusion. Others thought that it might be a tactic for them to gain an advantage on the other teams. 

"Car 63 was fitted with front tires that were allocated to Car 77," the stewards' report said. "This was caused by a radio communications technical issue wherein the pit wall's communication to the pit crew that Car 63 was entering the pits before (and not after) Car 77, failed to be received by the crew of Car 63 because at the same time, the driver of Car 63 transmitted over the top of that message. This resulted in the front tires of Car 77 accidentally going onto Car 63. (The cars were "double stacked" at the time.) This is a breach of the regulations and would normally involve a sporting penalty up to Disqualification."