RACE DEBRIEF

    The absence of the dominant figure of Lewis Hamilton from proceedings at the Sakhir Grand Prix left an opportunity for others to flourish. But who impressed our judges most at the second race in Bahrain? The scores are in…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    “It's not going to be his last attempt to win a race; it's just the beginning of a fairy-tale that didn't work out today.” So said Toto Wolff of the performance of the driver he chose to replace Hamilton at Mercedes for the Sakhir Grand Prix. Had the cards fallen differently, we would now be talking of George Russell as an F1 race winner. That we’re not is unfortunate – but takes nothing away from a performance that saw Russell outperform Valtteri Bottas on race day, in a Mercedes W11 that was far from a comfortable fit for the Briton and unknown to him before Friday. Brilliant stuff.

    WATCH: The story of George Russell's dramatic Mercedes debut in the Sakhir GP

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    While Russell and Mercedes’ misfortunes tied a nice bow around a maiden victory for Sergio Perez, the Mexican certainly did his bit to earn it too, climbing from being last at the end of Lap 1 to score his first win in 190 Grand Prix starts – with Perez’s performance leaving a number of drivers wondering quite how they’d managed to end up behind him at the flag. Give that man a race seat for 2021!

    READ MORE: Perez 'can't be left outside F1' says Ocon as he empathises with Sakhir GP winner

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    Sainz enjoyed a sensational start to the Sakhir Grand Prix, weaving his way through the Lap 1 carnage to climb from P8 to P3 when the Safety Car was called, and then bothering the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the Lap 7 restart. Yes, you could say he was unlucky to be called in under an all-too-brief Virtual Safety Car for his second pit stop. But ultimately, the Spaniard did well to finish as the highest of the true two-stoppers (ignoring Perez’s Lap 1 stop) to claim P4 – his third straight top-five finish.

    READ MORE: Sainz says he ‘cannot complain’ about P4 after conceding defeat to ‘quicker and luckier’ drivers

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    Narrowly behind Sainz in the Power Rankings standings came Esteban Ocon, who’s had a difficult return to F1 in 2020, but who drove well in Sakhir and took the opportunities that came his way to score his first ever F1 podium with a P2 finish. That would have been P3 if he hadn’t executed a lovely pass on Lance Stroll just after the Canadian had emerged from the pits on Lap 43, Ocon going around the outside of the Racing Point at Turn 4 for what was undoubtedly his move of the season thus far.

    READ MORE: Delighted Ocon reflects on ‘difficult journey’ to maiden podium after P2 finish in Sakhir

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    Lance Stroll’s second podium of the year – and third of his career – was slightly bittersweet for the Racing Point driver, who felt that had things gone his way, he could have won the race. Either way, a strong drive from Stroll helped to ensure that Racing Point scored their first ever double podium as an entity, and the first double podium for the ‘Silverstone Squad’ since Jordan’s one-two at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.

    READ MORE: The lows of Bahrain make the highs of Sakhir ‘even sweeter’ says Racing Point boss Szafnauer

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    Daniil Kvyat couldn’t hide his disappointment that “an almost perfect race” – in the Russian’s words – had only netted him P7. Kvyat looked the more comfortable of the two AlphaTauri drivers across the Sakhir Grand Prix weekend, out-qualifying Pierre Gasly for just the third time this season, before finishing in seventh place to Gasly’s 11th – the Russian having ultimately fallen behind the cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon that he’d led at various points in the race.

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    Max Verstappen sliding limply into the barriers at Turn 4 on Lap 1 was not the Dutchman’s finest hour in Formula 1. In truth, although it looked clumsy from the outside, there was little Verstappen could have done to avoid it once he’d chosen to drive around the outside of Perez and Charles Leclerc’s little scrap – while 24 hours earlier, a supreme effort had seen the Red Bull driver miss out on pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix by just 0.056s, having been the only driver to get within two-tenths of the rampant Mercedes.

    READ MORE: ‘What did he expect?’ – Verstappen says 'reckless' Leclerc has to accept blame over first-lap crash in Sakhir

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    “A pretty sad P5” was how Ricciardo termed his result at the Sakhir Grand Prix, the Renault driver having been up with the hard-charging Sainz in the early part of the race, only to get undercut by Kvyat in the first stops, forcing Ricciardo to spend the entirety of his second stint bottled up behind the Russian. Ricciardo would later get back past the AlphaTauri and execute a strong recovery to fifth, to extend his points-scoring streak to 10 races – that’s ever since the Belgian Grand Prix. But seeing his team mate both ahead of him and on the podium was clearly tough for the Australian to take.

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    With an emphasis on power, the Sakhir Grand Prix was always going to be a tough one for the Ferrari-powered runners. None of them made it into the top 10 on race day, but Antonio Giovinazzi’s performance deserves commendation, the Italian making Q2 after lapping eight-tenths faster than team mate Kimi Raikkonen, while in the race, he’d finish just two seconds adrift of the works Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

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    Lando Norris appeared to struggle to get into the groove of the Bahrain International Circuit’s Outer Track, the Briton admitting that he was over-thinking his driving, a factor which contributed to him qualifying 15th. That was 19th after a grid penalty for a change of power unit elements, while a sensational start from Norris would ultimately help him to finish 10th at the flag, to at least claim a point from an otherwise challenging weekend.

    ONBOARD: Lando Norris overtakes half the field at Sakhir Grand Prix race start

    MISSING OUT

    In what was, on the whole, a low-scoring race, four drivers found themselves tied on 11th place with scores of 6.6: Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, plus F1 debutants Jack Aitken and Pietro Fittipaldi.

    As mentioned, Gasly couldn’t quite on terms with his team mate this weekend. Magnussen led Haas as well as he could but was always going to struggle with pace here. Aitken blotted his copybook with his mid-race spin but otherwise looked impressively on the pace in the second Williams, while Fittipaldi did a solid job – and is sure of another chance in Abu Dhabi this weekend, after Romain Grosjean ruled himself out for the rest of the season.

    READ MORE: ‘Gutted’ Aitken ‘desperate to have another go’ with Williams after race-defining shunt

    2020 Sakhir Grand Prix: Aitken spin bring out Safety Car on his Formula 1 debut

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    Hamilton’s non-score for the Sakhir Grand Prix means that, despite Max Verstappen not finishing the race, he moves to the head of the standings – and will likely be crowned the Power Rankings king if Hamilton is unable to make it back in time for Abu Dhabi.

    READ MORE: Hamilton targeting Abu Dhabi return after ‘one of the hardest weeks’ out with Covid-19

    Meanwhile Sainz jumps two places to fourth as Leclerc goes the other way, while Perez’s score of 9.6 sees him demote Bottas to 10th – the Finn in danger of falling out of the top 10 by season-end if he doesn’t perform at Yas Marina.

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