An early crash, a near entire-field pit stop to change tyres… crazy stuff!
Without Lewis Hamilton, many eyes were on George Russell to see how he would perform in the Mercedes for the first time in Formula 1.
It was an eventful race that was chaotic from the very first lap with a collision leading to an early retirement for Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. This left the race wide open.
With the amount of swings and turns that occurred during this race, Racing Point were the ultimate winners having two cars finish on the podium. Here are the major takeaways of the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Racing Point completely reverse their fortunes from the Bahrain Grand Prix
Both Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez were extremely unfortunate last weekend as they both did not finish the race. Stroll was tipped upside down while the engine failed Perez costing him a potential podium.
However, things can change quickly in the space of a week. After an early collision with Leclerc, Perez managed to bounce back by overcoming the traffic at the back and making a charge towards the front.
There’s no doubt that Racing Point have the third best car in Formula 1. They currently hold a 10-point lead for P3 in the constructors’ championship and that includes being penalised earlier in the season.
Plenty of fortune aided both Racing Point cars their podiums, however. Russell was in hot pursuit of Perez towards the last 10 laps. Russell started fifth on the restart and quickly overtook the cars in front eyeing the victory of the race.
Russell had closed within two seconds behind Perez, but a tyre puncture assisted the Racing Point’s cause allowing Sergio to secure his first Formula 1 win in his career.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo squandered their opportunities to battle for a podium as they had pitted when the safety car ended setting them back in the race. This allowed Lance Stroll to grab his second podium of 2020.
Esteban Ocon had a gutsy one stop performance
Last week I commented on how Ocon’s poor form in 2020 and how he really needed to step it up for 2021. To his credit, he had a strong performance in Sakhir as he managed his tyres beautifully allowing him to stop just once.
He had driven the first half of the race on medium tyres and the second half on hard tyres. In a race where drivers had two and even three pit stops, his ability to look after the tyres was massive.
It definitely was a much-needed result. His form in 2020 has been average and has failed to support Ricciardo in leading Renault towards a P3 constructors’ championship finish. Ocon has failed to score points in 7 out of the 16 races this year and is currently sitting P12 in the drivers’ championship.
Hopefully for Ocon, he will be able to build from this performance, have a strong finish in Abu Dhabi and bring momentum in for 2021.
Pit stop execution were the major factors that impacted the race
This race saw plenty of drama at the pit stops. Numerous events were newsworthy as they certainly affected the outcome of the race.
Firstly, the use of undercuts was a competent strategy and saw a number of drivers attempt one to gain an advantage. It was Daniil Kvyat and Alpha Tauri who initiated proceedings and caused others to respond.
While there were strategic decisions made with pit stops, there was also the ugly side of pit stops.
Ferrari on numerous occasions had compromised Sebastian Vettel’s race with shocking pit stop execution. Vettel was unfortunately the victim of a 4 second and 6 second pit stop during this race which is unacceptable.
As mentioned earlier, Sainz and Ricciardo got it all wrong as they attempted to exploit the benefits of a safety car pit stop. Once they entered, the safety car had ended thus ruining their plans.
Finally, the biggest hiccup of all involved Mercedes where they had put the wrong tyres on George Russell while keeping the same tyres on Valtteri Bottas. There was plenty of confusion within the Mercedes garage and it cost them dearly.
Heartbreak for George Russell as he showcases his capabilities
Personally, I was excited to see how George Russell would perform in a Mercedes car as I’m sure many others were also interested. He certainly did not disappoint as he showcased speed, overtaking ability and looked really comfortable in the car.
Having driven for Williams for two years, it has allowed Russell to gain experience in Formula 1 as he waits for the right opportunity with Mercedes.
After he had missed out on his first points in a Williams car due to an error at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, it’s clear that Russell wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s admirable. Which is why when there was a mix up at the pit stops and when it was announced he had a tyre puncture, you just felt so bad for Russell.
He ultimately finished P9 to secure points, but his night could have provided so much more. Nonetheless, George Russell will achieve great things should he be able to drive a better car.
Comical night for Mercedes
It’s amazing how without Lewis Hamilton, things didn’t seem to run as smoothly for Mercedes. They had both cars finish P8 and P9 and it was a horrible night with only their team to blame.
The weekend started perfectly with Bottas and Russell locking out the front row in qualifying.
Russell was leading for over two-thirds of the race looking comfortable but as mentioned earlier, a mistake as they attempted to double stack both drivers compromised their night.
Bottas would eventually be overtaken as he finished the race with worn tyres and Russell had to pit twice to avoid penalties with having the wrong tyres.
It was incredible to see Mercedes looking amateurish, but it at least provided some new faces at the top of the race.