Sergio Perez took full advantage of his rivals’ misfortunes on Sunday as he battled from last position to claim his first Formula One victory in a chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix.
Racing Point’s Perez could be out of work next season but recovered from a first-lap crash in Bahrain that dropped him to the back of the field to earn his maiden win in his 190th race.
the 30-year-old was helped by a shock Mercedes pit-stop tyres bungle and then a late puncture for stand-in star George Russell, who dazzled as substitute for world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Perez became the first Mexican victor in F1 since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970, ending a series of races dominated by Mercedes for whom Valtteri Bottas finished eighth and Russell ninth.
“I’m speechless,” said an emotional Perez, who wept through most of his victory lap after taking the flag.
“I hope I’m not dreaming… Ten years it has took me and I don’t know what to say.
“After that first lap, the race was gone –- but I didn’t give up. In the end, my pace was good enough to hold off George.”
Perez is being released by Racing Point at the end of this season to be replaced by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, with the team to be rebranded as Aston Martin.
He is currently without a 2021 race seat, but he is in contention to replace Alexander Albon at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen, who crashed out on the opening lap of a dramatic race along with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Perez’s win came after four consecutive victories by Hamilton, who was absent after contracting coronavirus.
He came home ahead of Esteban Ocon of Renault, who claimed his first podium finish, and his Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll.
“I have no words. I cried on the line, that’s how much emotion there was inside,” said Ocon.
“It’s been a tough season, but we never stopped pushing. When there are less and less people believing in you, you have to believe in yourself.”
Stroll said: “An amazing result for the team — a part of me is a little disappointed because I could have won, but it’s a great result and just what we needed for the championship.”
Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz was fourth for McLaren ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault and Albon.
Daniil Kvyat was seventh for Alpha Tauri ahead of the two ‘black arrows’, Russell at least claiming his first two points in F1 after leading for most of the race before their pit-stop downfall.
Lando Norris, who started at the back of the grid, finished 10th for McLaren.