South Australia was welcomed by the Supercars championship in 2021, with a single visit to The Bend Motorsport Park which has become a mainstay on the calendar with its Bend SuperSprint.
Well that was all kinds of incredible wasn’t it? A result nobody expected after one of the busiest weeks in Formula One history. Let’s get to it.
All hail Sergio Perez
A brief personal story before moving into the Checo praise. I was at the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang in which Sergio Perez very nearly (and should’ve) won the race. My mate and I at the track were in awe at how he managed to get himself in that position, and when we realised it was likely he could win, we cheered him all the way home.
Unfortunately on that day a slight mistake cost him the win, but a second place in only his 21st race was a pretty good effort for the Mexican.
Fast forward 173 races later and finally he has tasted the sweet champagne of victory. Nobody would’ve believed back then that it would take that long, especially when he was thrust into a McLaren as replacement for Lewis Hamilton in 2013.
And while that didn’t work out then, somehow he found himself replacing Lewis Hamilton seven years later as the winner of a Grand Prix in an era where Hamilton generally wins. And there is not a single F1 fan who surely didn’t shed a tear in him winning on the weekend.
Added to the incredible story that it is, Checo was dead last at the end of the first lap. It looked like he was out with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. But somehow he managed to find his way back into the race and hang on as chaos happened around him.
It was by far the drive of the season and one of the best drives you will ever see.
With that in mind, this is a guy who may only have one race left in his F1 career. That is beyond belief. And one that every F1 fan cannot fathom.
If this performance at Sakhir this weekend doesn’t secure him the drive for Red Bull next year, then nothing will. Hopefully in a few days we may find out.
Sir Lancelot rises again
My man Lance once again showed the skill that he has and drove a fantastic race that of course went unnoticed due to several other stories throughout the race.
After a qualifying session on Saturday that he clearly wasn’t impressed with, Stroll drove an incredibly mature first stint to look after his tyres to allow himself to run deep into the race, a stint that no doubt helped him towards his second podium of the season and third of his career.
Admittedly it could’ve been better, as he dropped behind Ocon after his stop and admitted to a mistake in battling his teammate when Perez was storming through the field.
However a podium after starting from tenth would on any other day be hailed as a great drive. And I for one will be in the small minority by praising Lance for a great drive in what continues to be a season that showcases the talent he does have.
On the same page in the other Canadian garage, Nicholas Latifi actually drove a fairly solid race and weekend. He was able to outqualify his teammate for the first ever time (circumstances led to this of course) and was running as high as 13th during the race until an oil leak halted his progress on lap 52. Given it was his first ever F1 race as team leader, he should leave Bahrain with his head held high.
George’s time will come
I talked up George Russell earlier this year as being an incredible talent, and without a doubt this weekend showed that. To get the big call up to the big time after Lewis Hamilton got COVID, it was a perfect opportunity for him to show just how good he is.
And let’s be honest, he is bloody good. Two-hundredths off pole, a dominant performance in the race made redundant due to errors from his team, Russell is a star of the future easily.
It was heartbreaking to see him miss out on at least a podium, but he did manage to score his first points as well as get the fastest lap. If you had have said that to him a week ago, he gladly would’ve taken it.
It puts Mercedes in an interesting dilemma moving forward. Bottas only has one year left on his contract next year, and George has often been touted as a replacement for him should that time come.
However if somebody like Max Verstappen was to become available, would he be the better option? On paper, yes.
Absolutely. However George has the potential to be as good as the front runners, and let’s be honest, he maybe already is. There is also the small factor of what Lewis Hamilton decides to do as well, especially given that technically he isn’t signed to race on for 2021.
One thing that has to be said though is the small factor of a certain dominant Mercedes. Not to take away from Russell’s performance in the slightest, but the argument about Hamilton’s achievements being put down to having the best car weren’t exactly taken away given a guy who has been driving a back marker car for his entire career was able to come right in and nearly win the race.
Again, Russell is a talented driver. As is Hamilton. You can’t put anyone in that Mercedes and win. But to see the extent of just how close Russell came based on never having driven that car, goes to show that a very dominant car does go a long way.
If we could somehow get Hamilton in a Williams next race to see if he can do the amazing thing Russell does in it, then perhaps you’ll quiet some of the doubters a little bit more.
Keep this Sakhir moving forward
Can we just scrap the OG Bahrain layout and keep this outer layout moving forward? Seriously, it was great. And I think many people would agree that it’s far better than the actual layout we are used to racing at.
With the exception of the 2014 race, there has never been a good Bahrain Grand Prix. Ever. And it is by far one of the most bland race tracks on the calendar.
If this race wasn’t in the Middle East and surrounded in squillions of dollars in cash, it would’ve been scrapped long ago. Valencia was a derided circuit, and that track runs rings around Bahrain.
The easy fix is to keep the outer layout moving forward. There’s something amazing about seeing sub-60 second laps and having safety car opportunities that change the race in an instant based on just how short it is.
They tried (and failed) with an endurance layout ten years ago, now they’ve tried (and succeeded) the sprint layout. Let’s go with what works and make Bahrain a race that we can actually look forward to each year.
Schumacher the champion
Oh how great it is to write those words! Mick Schumacher, F2 champion and this week also confirmed as an F1 driver for 2021.
An incredible performance by Mick, especially given many wrote him off a year ago as nothing more than a surname. And given his weekend wasn’t exactly an easy one, he put in two stunning drives when it counted to maintain his lead and win the title.
Sure Sunday’s sprint race didn’t exactly go how he wanted, but he maintained enough of a pace on a flat spotted tyre to give racing until the end a crack, until he ultimately had to pit and hang on to hope that his rival Callum Ilot wouldn’t be able to finish in first or second with the fastest lap.
That’s exactly what happened, and Mick walked away as champion. Amazing.
With his seat at Haas confirmed now, it’ll be interesting to see if perhaps he’ll be given the chance to make his debut at Abu Dhabi next weekend.
Romain Grosjean will not race, meaning that there is a seat available. Pietro Fittipaldi did what he could over the weekend as a sub, but perhaps now that Mick is free from F2 commitments, it could be a chance to see just how he goes in race conditions.
We know he is set for a run in free practice on Friday, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him stay in it for the whole weekend.
Whatever happens, I for one know that seeing the Schumacher name on the grid will be the most exciting thing for 2021. And also give me another guaranteed slot each race to talk about.
One more race to go and one of the weirdest F1 seasons will be over with. Bring on Abu Dhabi and (hopefully) bring on another race just like this one!