Despite it taking 190 attempts and not having a seat for the 2021 FORMULA 1 season, nothing else mattered to Sergio Perez as he crossed the finish line in first place for the first time in his F1 career to take victory in the FORMULA 1 ROLEX SAKHIR GRAND PRIX 2020.
You have to go all the way back to the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix to find a Mexican race winner, Pedro Rodríguez, a moment not lost on Perez as he celebrated the playing of the national anthem in a hugely emotional moment.
Sergio Perez Fulfils Lifelong Dream
It has been a lifelong dream of Sergio Perez to win a Grand Prix, but it was something that didn’t look like happening, particularly as the race-winner doesn’t have a seat for 2021 and beyond.
‘I am a bit shocked, to be honest. I don’t find the words. I’m a bit in the limbo right now.
‘As a driver you dream for this time, to be in this position, for so many years. I worked my whole life for a moment like this. To finally achieve it… It’s difficult to digest.
‘I think it will take a couple of days, but it’s just something incredible, especially coming back from last weekend where it was a very disappointing day for us where we should have been on the podium. Really the last four races we should have been on the podium.
‘But we didn’t give up, especially after lap one, we got knocked out again, you know. I don’t know what happened. I was already doing the corner and I got hit badly behind. I thought the race was over again, but we managed to come back.
Racing Point Gets Strategy On Point
After several near-misses and costly decisions that robbed Perez of podium opportunities throughout 2020, the team made the right calls when it mattered today, making the win a true team effort.
‘I think obviously after what happened in Imola when we did the wrong choice, pitting under the Safety Car, we were clear what we wanted to do here.
‘We were obviously staying out and we were pretty confident I was going to be able to restart those tyres and to go to the end with good pace.
‘I think with George it was going be close but I think I was going to be able to hold him back, because we had good pace. He was about two to three-tenths, sometimes four-tenths, sometimes I was matching him. I think the closest he got was 2.8s.
‘The information that we had as a team was that you needed a difference of eight-tenths of a lap to be able to overtake. It was going to be close but I think given the age of my tyres, given the pace I had towards the end, the pace I had in hand, I was going to be able to hold him back to the end.’
Incredible Recovery From Last To First
On the opening lap of the race Perez was hit from behind, and sent spinning off the track. After pitting he returned to the field in last place, and had an incredible task set to try and salvage something from the race…
‘That first stint was pretty hard. We went onto a new set of mediums but I did a big mistake during the safety car. I locked up, warming up the brakes, I locked up badly the front left tyre and since that first lap of the race, I had so bad vibrations but it was hard to keep the steering wheel tight [in my hands].
‘There were times when I told the team that we should box I was losing lap time but still the pace was strong at that point but what I think what really made our race was to be able to go a bit longer than these two guys and build up a bit of a tyre delta and then we came back strong and we managed to overtake them and I think we had good tyre life until the end, so well done to the team, because we understood quickly enough this Bahrain because it’s very different to the last one that we raced on, in terms of tyre usage, tyre energies, so we done on that, to the team, and nice recovery from last weekend.’
Sergio Perez Future Still Up In The Air
Although he is now a race winner and has a handful of podiums under his belt in what has been arguably his best season in F1, Perez is still without a seat for 2021. However, the Mexican is calm about the situation, and will return in 2022 if he can’t secure a drive for next season.
‘I’ve always said about ’22 there was a race, taking a year out at this stage of my career that I am. I never know what’s going to happen, if I will have the will to come back after that. After the last couple of races, I’m sort of determined to be here, either if it’s next year or the year after.
‘I already have some good options for ’22 so my best option is obviously to keep going on next year but if I have to stop, then it’s not a disaster, I can come back in ’22.
‘The regulations are going to change so much that in a way, I don’t think it will hurt that much the driving side, to get up to speed. I’m at peace with myself, you know.
‘Esteban mentioned drivers like him missing out on seats, so it’s just the way Formula 1 is, it can be really tough and not all the best drivers are in Formula 1 unfortunately. So we keep pushing and we keep delivering and I think that’s the best way to do it.’
Party Time In Mexico
With no race winner in 50 years, it’s now party time in Mexico as they toast the win of one of their favourite sons.
‘It’s going to be amazing. At this time of the year, in a normal year, I think we are around Mexico, Austin, that region you know. It’s a good time in the Mexican time [zone]. Normally the races are like six in the morning, seven in the morning. This one, it’s on a Sunday, 11 ‘o clock and I’m sure by now they will be having some good tequilas in half of the country!
‘It means a lot, a lot to me, especially this year. It’s been very difficult for all the world so to have this kind of happiness at the homes for many Mexicans means a lot to me, for my family, it’s just such a tremendous day, a historic day in our sport. I’m just very pleased, you know. You’ve seen the amount of support that I get in my country. Can you imagine what it’s like at the moment?’ concluded Perez.