The 2020 Formula 1 season has a lot of surprises. Perhaps no one was shocked that Lewis Hamilton clinched his seventh title, but this year saw several first-time podium finishers and winners. With that, the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix is one for the history books with everything that unfolded during the race and Formula 1's 110th winner.
That driver is Racing Point's Sergio Perez, and he had to wait nine years to get his maiden victory in the sport. Perez also sets a new record in Formula 1 for the longest wait before securing the first win. The previous record was held by Mark Webber with 130 starts. Perez beats that by 60 by taking 190 races to reach the top step of the podium.
But the odds weren't in Perez's favor at the start of the race. It was George Russell that stormed to the front, and Perez was even tagged by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during the opening lap. That meant the eventual winner needed a pit stop to get some repairs done to his car. On the restart, Perez went to the back of the pack but quickly climbed up the order. By the halfway point of the race, he made it up to third.
At the time, it looked like George Russell was on his way to his first win. Subbing for Lewis Hamilton, the sophomore racer drove the Mercedes-AMG and had a healthy lead over Valtteri Bottas. Ironically, Russell's race took a turn for the worse after his substitute for Williams, Jack Aitken, clobbered the wall and forcing a safety car.
The safety car period is a good time for a pit stop, but it proved disastrous for both Russell and Bottas. Russell received two different sets of tires on his car while Bottas' brakes caught fire during all the confusion. Both drivers had to go back to the pits and the back of the pack on the restart.
While all of that was happening, Perez inherited the lead and never looked back. At one point, it seemed that Russell would reclaim the spot back but, a puncture effectively ended his challenge for the win. Unchallenged during the last ten laps, Perez cruised to victory with an insurmountable ten-second lead over the Renault of Esteban Ocon.
It was a well-deserved result for Perez after everything that's happened to him in the last nine years. After showing strong results during his rookie year, he raced for McLaren but was dropped after just one season. He then joined Force India, which was subsequently renamed Racing Point. Through the years, he gained several podium finishes, but the first win remained elusive for the Mexican.
Then, in 2020, he contracted the coronavirus, forcing him to sit out for two races. If that wasn't enough, Racing Point announced that Perez will not race with them next year. Despite that, he powered through, consistently outqualifying and outpacing teammate, Lance Stroll. He still doesn't have a drive for next year, but with a win under his belt, his chances of getting a seat for 2021 just shot up.