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Five talking points from a sensational Sakhir Grand Prix

Five talking points from a sensational Sakhir Grand Prix

F1 News

Five talking points from a sensational Sakhir Grand Prix

Five talking points from a sensational Sakhir Grand Prix

The Sakhir Grand Prix was one of the most highly anticipated races held in Formula 1 in recent years and the Outer Track configuration did not disappoint.

Elation, heartbreak, confusion and excitement were all served up as George Russell saw victory taken away from him not once but twice on his stand-in appearance in place of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

One man's loss is another man's gain, however, as Sergio Perez came through the pack to claim his and Racing Point's maiden F1 victory.

What better place to start as we look at the five things we learned - and enjoyed - from a radical experiment that caught the imagination.

Perez wins at last

Somebody get the Mexican a seat. Perez scored a podium in Turkey and looked on course to follow it up in the Bahrain Grand Prix before a late engine failure robbed him of third place.

But Perez showed no signs of slacking in the second Bahraini event though as he fought back from last at the end of lap one to somehow take home a first win in the sport at the 191st attempt. No driver in F1's history has had to wait so long for a win.

The man without a drive for 2021 was facing backwards at turn four after a punt from Charles Leclerc but somehow escaped without major damage. Two safety car periods and a virtual safety car later, and Perez found himself atop the standings.

It is all too easy to say 'Well, Mercedes threw it away,' but Racing Point made no mistakes and showed the raw speed needed to pick up the pieces left for them. Nobody can argue against that.

With Alex Albon only finishing sixth for Red Bull it surely gives Perez hope of landing a 2021 drive with the team after such a remarkable showing.

Mercedes play lucky dip with tyres after radio failure

It would be hard to find a soul in the world whose heart didn't sink for Russell as one calamity followed another.

The Briton was in complete control on his Mercedes debut after taking the lead from Valtteri Bottas into turn one and then easing away from the Finn.

But the irony of the afternoon came when Russell's own replacement in Jack Aitken knocked his Williams' front wing off at the final corner, triggering a safety car.

A late call to double-stack the front two in order to gain a free pit-stop quickly backfired, however, as Russell was given a mixed set of medium tyres. Two of Bottas' allocation went on the front of the car and two of his own at the rear.

This, of course, consequently left Bottas without tyres and, after Mercedes realised the error, the team put the Finn's original set of hard tyres back on. The time lost dropped Bottas to fourth on the road but left him a sitting duck at the restart.

Russell was immediately forced to make a third stop a lap later to right the wrongs of the mixed allocation. The Williams-contracted driver managed to put the mistake to the back of his mind and fought back from fifth to second before beginning his chase of Perez, only for a slow puncture to thwart him.

The reason for the pit-stop horror? A faulty radio meaning the garage crew were unaware of the late call for a stop. Russell, of course, will not surrender the plaudits he gained after a brilliant drive, but the victory he thoroughly deserved was gut-wrenchingly taken away.

Fight for third changes hands again

After the disastrous double non-finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix, Racing Point had fallen behind a McLaren team who had managed to hit a streak of form with consecutive top-five finishes.

Renault and Ferrari were still in the fight, albeit starting to fade. But with Perez's victory and a podium for third-placed Lance Stroll, it seems the Silverstone-based team has again taken control of the situation.

Plenty can still happen, as has been demonstrated all season long. But the 10-point margin Racing Point now holds over McLaren looks difficult to assail given the supreme speed shown by the race winners over the previous five races.

McLaren could well argue they were short-changed given Lando Norris started from the back of the field, but by lap 10 he and Perez had effectively swapped positions - although the Mexican had lost far more than the Briton had gained.

Esteban Ocon's maiden F1 podium has kept Renault just about in the hunt for the lucrative third-place prize - there is $10million difference between finishing third and fifth in the constructors' standings - but 22 points will be difficult to overhaul.

Abu Dhabi looks set to provide a thrilling conclusion to one of the closest midfield battles in the sport's history.

Verstappen hits more bad luck

By no means the only driver to have been plagued by continual bad luck, Max Verstappen must be wondering what on earth he has to do to catch a break.

The most frustrating element of his retirement on lap one in the fracas of Leclerc's lunge on Perez is that the Ferrari nor Racing Point even made contact with Verstappen.

Instead, the Red Bull drifted wide onto the gravel and skirted into the barrier on the inside of turn five. In hindsight, it was another chance of victory gone begging for the Dutchman, who would surely have been on the coattails of Mercedes and profited from the pit-stop nightmare.

But instead, Verstappen was left kicking a tyre barrier not even halfway around the first lap, with Bottas stretching the gap for second in the championship to 16 points.

Did the Outer Track work?

The race, of course, took place on the outside loop of the Bahrain International Circuit and my word did it throw up a thriller.

It almost felt like there was an overtake per lap during the race given the frenetic nature of the event, despite the closeness of the field and the dirty air. The 'new' complex from turn four through to turn nine was surprisingly good for racing - as demonstrated by Russell's sublime move on Bottas at turn six.

Will it ever be used again? Probably not, which is a shame as F1 was afforded a tonic this weekend, something different.

It wasn't just a plain 'oval' as some had feared beforehand. Genuine skill and talent were needed to coax the cars through the mid-section at the fastest speed possible, with lap times proving even the smallest mistake could cost you multiple positions both in qualifying and the race.

Without a doubt, it was a successful experiment.

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