Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer, who left Renault through the 2017 season, is a part of the BBC staff and provides perception and evaluation from the viewpoint of the opponents.
Sergio Perez is a race winner lastly, and his drive to victory within the Sakhir Grand Prix could possibly be no higher advert for a driver presently out of a job on the finish of the yr.
The Mexican is performing on the prime of his sport proper now and Crimson Bull, the one doable vacation spot for him in 2021, can not ignore this as they weigh up who ought to associate Max Verstappen subsequent yr.
I’ve all the time thought Perez was an underrated driver in Method 1, from watching him, then racing towards him and now commentating on and analysing the races.
He has delivered a number of podiums for each staff he has pushed for, besides his 2013 yr at McLaren. All of these groups have been midfielders.
In truth, Perez has didn’t step on to the rostrum at the very least as soon as in solely three of his 9 seasons, a statistic to which no different perennial midfielder within the trendy period can come shut.
He’s underrated no extra. Perez is now thought to be the established, nice F1 driver he’s, and Sunday’s race was the proper demonstration of his abilities.
Perez was lifeless final on the finish of the primary lap, after being worn out by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari at Flip 4. However simply as in Portimao final month, he saved his head, pitted on the finish of lap one to alter technique and made it work.
His early laps after the protection automotive had been an outstanding show of medical overtaking. Then he saved his tyres in good situation in typical Perez trend, earlier than controlling the race after the late security automotive.
Final to first – it was absolutely the excellent drive.
And it hasn’t come out of the blue, both.
Since receiving Racing Level’s upgrades for the Eifel Grand Prix in October, Perez has had a win and a second place. He must also comfortably have had podiums in Bahrain, had been it not for a late engine blow-up, and at Imola, had been it not for a late security automotive beneath which Racing Level erroneously pitted him.
Perez for Albon – it is the plain determination
Performances like this could make him a lifeless cert for the Crimson Bull seat, however the staff appear completely determined to re-sign Alex Albon for subsequent yr.
Historically ruthless with their driver selections, they’ve by no means come near giving one in every of their drivers as a lot leeway or time to show themselves as Albon has had.
Daniil Kvyat was axed for Verstappen early within the 2016 season, one race after getting on the rostrum, and Pierre Gasly was dropped for Albon after only one half season final yr following a run of disappointing outcomes.
Albon’s performances have been each bit as disappointing as Gasly’s had been, but even now Crimson Bull are biding their time, ready for him to supply a touch of a strong efficiency to justify a choice to retain him.
Albon is a pleasant man, very well mannered and exhausting working, however this has by no means softened the hearts of the Crimson Bull administration earlier than.
He’s additionally racing beneath the Thai flag, for an organization that hails from Thailand initially. Nevertheless it’s exhausting to consider that sentiment is the one factor retaining him within the automotive, when there’s little promotion or celebration of this from Crimson Bull.
It could simply be that Crimson Bull are nonetheless making an attempt to justify their determination to signal him within the first place. However with Albon as soon as once more lacking out on making it into the ultimate qualifying session and ending the race in sixth, that justification handed a very long time in the past.
Crimson Bull know that whoever they signal as second driver is not going to match the tempo of Verstappen, however what they want from that driver is to at the very least be capable of ship when others falter.
Perez has been doing that for therefore many races now, and in a grand prix the place the highest 4 on the grid all had points that dominated them out of rivalry, he was the motive force who breezed by way of to win, passing Albon on the best way, whereas Albon might muster solely sixth in Crimson Bull’s solely remaining automotive.
If Crimson Bull need to be seen as a real championship contender subsequent season, then they have to change from a second driver who has underperformed. Absolutely even essentially the most blinkered of the Crimson Bull administration cannot look previous the newest F1 winner as the choice transferring ahead.
Russell – a star is born
The opposite star of the present over the course of the Sakhir weekend was after all Britain’s George Russell.
Having taken over Lewis Hamilton’s automotive, the 22-year-old barely put a foot flawed all weekend, and would have received the race had been it not for a crash for his Williams alternative Jack Aitken, and a uncommon botched pit cease by Mercedes on the ensuing security automotive. Even then Russell might have received however for the misfortune of a late puncture.
When it was introduced Hamilton was lacking this race with Covid-19, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas should initially have been considering it was an excellent likelihood of victory.
However when Russell was introduced as Hamilton’s alternative, quite than Mercedes reserve Stoffel Vandoorne, it was a distinct ball sport.
Bottas is aware of that Russell has been a Mercedes protege since 2017, and that staff boss Toto Wolff is already mulling over when to advertise him to the staff, so the stakes had been raised enormously, and Bottas appeared like he was cracking beneath the stress from the phrase go.
The Finn appeared ragged, making quite a few errors, and nearly managed to regroup to take pole place by a fraction of a second.
However with the best way the 2 drove on Sunday you’d be forgiven for considering Russell was the common within the automotive and Bottas making his debut.
Russell nailed the beginning, defended towards Bottas’ try and repass him at Flip One, and established a measured three-second hole earlier than the pair’s ‘solely’ pit cease.
Bottas was closing in after each Mercedes pitted to go to the tip on the exhausting tyre, however that fairly frankly is an irrelevance, and he confirmed precisely why after the late security automotive.
With Bottas mendacity fourth and Russell fifth as the protection automotive got here in, the race win was anybody’s.
Ultimately, it turned out to be a two-car shootout between Russell and Perez, and with Russell’s puncture, Perez had a stroll to the road. The place was Bottas?
Sure, Bottas was on a used exhausting tyre, however so was Perez, and the opposite Racing Level of Lance Stroll instantly forward of him was on a used medium.
Bottas had a sooner automotive and more energizing tyres than the entire drivers forward and will have been pushing to slice by way of the pack in the best way that Russell did, even when Russell had the added assist of a tyre benefit.
Not solely did Bottas not make progress, however he made errors making an attempt to take action, permitting his team-mate to move after which a complete string of automobiles to return by way of, demoting him to eighth by the flag even with Russell’s additional pit cease.
Bottas was unable to move Stroll, and even Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri, so there isn’t a likelihood he was going to be passing a sooner automotive for the race lead.
This was the Italian Grand Prix yet again for Bottas. In Monza, he was mugged down the order on the primary lap and obtained caught, whereas Hamilton was despatched to the again with a penalty mid-race, but ended up only one place behind on the flag.
Just one selection for Wolff now
Russell would have hoped to be giving Wolff a troublesome selection when he discovered he can be changing Hamilton in Sakhir, however because it stands it seems like he is accomplished higher than that – he is given him a simple one.
To return in to new environment and beat the established driver, a race winner already this season, is a exceptional effort in a automotive he wasn’t totally comfy in.
After all Russell was gutted to not take a win that he so deserved, and together with his late puncture we had been all denied a showdown between the 2 heroes of the day.
However this was a weekend through which Russell introduced himself as a future star of F1, and Bottas will certainly know the writing is on the wall for his Mercedes seat on the finish of subsequent season on the newest.
The altering of the guard occurred a few years in the past at Ferrari, when Leclerc changed Kimi Raikkonen and instantly introduced the usual up. Verstappen did the identical at Crimson Bull when he was introduced in alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
And whereas Russell can be hoping for an additional likelihood within the Mercedes this weekend in Abu Dhabi, that additionally appears the one factor that may save Bottas’ blushes at this level.
Bottas wants Russell to race, and he must convincingly beat him this time if he’s to have any likelihood of a Mercedes future past subsequent yr.
Even then, it could be too late.