Perez takes first F1 victory in chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix

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Perez takes first F1 victory in chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez took the first win of his career at a dramatic Sakhir Grand Prix in which Mercedes threw away a potential one-two finish and an opportunity for George Russell to score a victory in his first race for the team. Perez, who was hit by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on the opening lap and dropped to 18th place, kept his head amid a chaotic second half of the race to take an unlikely win for the team formerly known as Force India and originally founded as Jordan. It was Perez’s first win in a 190-race career, which could still come to an end this year if he fails to secure a place on the grid for 2021. Mercedes was on target for a one-two victory midway through the grand prix, with Russell, who was substituting for Lewis Hamilton this weekend, leading the team’s regular race driver Valtteri Bottas. However, the evening took a dramatic turn when Jack Aitken, who replaced Russell at Williams, lost control of his car on the exit of the final corner and dislodged his front wing on lap 62. The front wing bounced back onto the track and settled in a dangerous position, meaning race control had to release the Safety Car to allow the marshals to clear the debris. That presented all the teams with an opportunity to pit and Mercedes, who had a comfortable lead after making their regulation pit stop earlier in the race, took the opportunity to fit a fresh set of tyres to both cars until the end of the race. However, a radio problem in the garage led to a state of confusion and the team’s mechanics accidentally fitting tyres from Bottas’ allocation to Russell’s car. That meant Russell had to return to the pits on the following lap to correct the error and Bottas, who had also stacked behind Russell, was stuck on an old set of hard tyres that were past their best. The mix up dropped Russell and Bottas to fourth and fifth in the order at the restart, although it only took a handful of laps for Russell, who was now on the correct set of fresh medium tyres, to get past Bottas and start taking the fight to the top three, which was now made up of Lance Stroll in third, Esteban Ocon in second and Perez in the lead. Russell got as far as second place and looked well placed to put pressure on Perez, who was still on tyres his team fitted on lap 47, but a slow puncture halted his progress and forced him to pit for a fourth time. The pit stop dropped Russell to 15th place from where he mounted a second fightback and finished the race in ninth place behind teammate Bottas in eighth. Perez took the win ahead of Ocon’s Renault and teammate Stroll, with Carlos Sainz finishing fourth for McLaren. Daniel Ricciardo took fifth for Renault ahead of Alex Albon, who put in a disappointing performance to finish sixth. Daniil Kvyat was seventh ahead of the two Mercedes drivers and the second McLaren of Lando Norris, who picked up the last point in tenth. Max Verstappen, who had started the race in third place, was taken out in the first lap collision between Leclerc and Perez and retired from the race, along with the Ferrari driver, on the spot. Russell was under investigation after the race for running a lap with the wrong tyres fitted to his car.