The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix was a vindicating weekend for two of F1’s most unsung heroes as Sergio Perez’s shock maiden victory and George Russell’s outstanding performance standing in for Lewis Hamilton stole the headlines in Bahrain.

On this side of the weekend, you could look back on their achievements - Perez taking a brilliant first win for both Racing Point and himself, plus Russell’s long stint in the lead before a pit stop blunder robbed him of a deserving success - as most certainly within their abilities in the right circumstances. But that doesn’t tell the full story.

As one of the drivers you can rely on for being there to ‘pick up the pieces’ when the big guns (ie. Mercedes and Max Verstappen drop it hard), on Sunday it happened to all three drivers, allowing the Mexican to swoop in for the win that Racing Point has been threatening all year. 

In fact, Perez has been threatening it ever since he came close to winning the Malaysian GP back in 2012 at the wheel of the Sauber.

While victory in his 190th grand prix start appears to be a case of ‘about time’, it disguises the fact Perez has persevered with general mid-pack machinery for the majority of his career. Were it not for a duff season at McLaren in 2013 - where the start of a long decline for the team was mistaken for inconsistency from the then inexperienced Mexican - Perez’s career may have taken a different direction.

And yet, there is a real threat Perez’s victory in grand prix start 190 could be followed by his 191st and final race in F1 as he prepares to head into the winter without a drive to his name. 

Given Perez has been a mainstay at Racing Point/Force India since 2014 and was credited with saving the team when it was on the verge of folding as Vijay Mallya’s fortunes crumbled around him, F1 Managing Director Ross Brawn says it will be a ‘tragedy’ if the Mexican doesn’t land another seat.

“This was a thoroughly deserved victory for Checo,” he wrote in his regular post-race column on F1.com. “I said in this column last week Racing Point may be feeling they underachieved. Well they corrected the scales yesterday – big time. And all credit to them. They were there and picked up the pieces and Checo just drove brilliantly.

“We all want to see him next year. It’ll be a tragedy if he can’t get a car. The team must be thinking about the decisions they have made, losing him when he’s driving so well.”

It’s created a slightly embarrassing situation at Racing Point, not least his impending successor Sebastian Vettel who - his immense success over the years notwithstanding - might feel a touch awkward his legacy has forced a driver at the top of his game out of a seat he’s kept warm for so long.

The same could be said for Lance Stroll, who may have compounded Racing Point’s joy with a third place himself in Bahrain, but is expected to retain his place by virtue of his team owning father. 

It may not be all disaster though as victory could well do exactly what was needed to convince Red Bull that he should get the Red Bull seat over Alex Albon. Head-to-head there is no comparison, Perez wins, but that’s not quite the best metric to base two drivers on… not that Red Bull has been shy in being ruthless over the years.

Perez and Racing Point’s first win has been a long time coming but if this is the end for the Mexican - at the moment anyway - then there is no higher way to have achieved it.

 

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