Racing Point’s Sergio Perez won his first ever Formula 1 race in another chaotic outing in Bahrain overnight.
Motorsport Australia ambassador Daniel Ricciardo finished the day in fifth and was left to rue a poor strategy in a race that could have yielded a much stronger result for the West Australian.
It was also tough day for Mercedes substitute George Russell who looked almost certain to take out a memorable victory of his own after dominating the early stages of the race, but two race defining moments would ultimately cost the young gun the victory.
With Mercedes calling both drivers in to pit under safety car in the midway point of the race, Russell was fitted with the wrong tyre set, which would also impact teammate Valtteri Bottas’ pit stop with the pair double stacking. The team inadvertently
fitted Bottas’ tyres to Russell’s car, meaning the Briton was forced to immediately pit again or risk disqualification for using the wrong tyres.
After his double stop saw him drop down the field, Russell again did his best to fight for the win climbing back into second with a tyre advantage in hand, before a puncture would dash his hopes of a win or a podium. Russell eventually finished the day
behind teammate Bottas in ninth.
It left Perez to take the chequered flag by more than 10 seconds, his first win in 190 race starts.
The victory was made even more memorable, given Perez had fallen to the rear of the grid after a messy start, which resulted in the retirements of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
With a super strategy and a determined drive, Perez powered his way through the field. It was a day to remember for Racing Point with Lance Stroll also finishing third.
Understandably, Perez was lost for words post-race.
“I’m a bit speechless,” the Mexican sad.
“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.”
For Ricciardo, it was a day of mixed emotions, left to imagine what might have been while his teammate Esteban Ocon secured his first podium with a second place finish
“It’s an amazing result for the team and congratulations to Esteban for getting his first ever podium, it was a really strong race by him and his side of the garage,” Ricciardo said.
“For me it was slightly disappointing as we could have done even better than fifth. I was happy with my start and I felt like there was a lot of opportunity being in fourth after lap one. We then boxed and lost ground to Kvyat and stayed behind
him for a while.
“We managed to get back ahead after the second stop but there wasn’t much I could do in the DRS train. We go at it again next weekend and try finish the season strong.”
The Formula 1 season wraps up with its final race in Abu Dhabi this weekend, with the year’s final race to begin at 12.10am AEDT on Monday, 14 December.