Sergio Perez has sensationally won his first Formula 1 grand prix from last on the first lap after a Mercedes pit stop blunder and late puncture cost George Russell a chance to regain the lead of the Sakhir GP.

The Racing Point driver was hit by Charles Leclerc at the start of the race in a crash that took out the Monegasque and Max Verstappen, forcing Perez into a costly first-lap pit stop for fresh tires, but the Mexican made rapid progress in the first half of the race before making just one extra stop to rise to third late in the race.

A podium behind a comfortable Russell-led Mercedes one-two was on the cards, but a late-race safety car conspired to lose Mercedes its double podium and promote Perez into a race-winning position.

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Formula One is back at the Bahrain International Circuit for the Sakhir Grand Prix, but a different track configuration, short and ultra-fast, promises a different challenge.

Valtteri Bottas has pipped George Russell and Max Verstappen in a three-way fight for pole at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen started the top-10 shootout as favourite with provisional pole, but the super-short circuit lent itself to three runs than the usual two, and Valtteri Bottas duly took back the initiative with his second lap.

But George Russell, standing in for Lewis Hamilton as the world champion recover from COVID-19, was the man making the biggest gains. The Williams driver has been improving session by session during his Mercedes loan and had just 0.142 seconds to close with his final tour to contend for pole.

Valtteri Bottas led a Mercedes front-row lockout at the Sakhir Grand Prix after narrowly beating stand-in teammate George Russell to pole position.

Bottas held provisional pole ahead of the final flying laps but failed to improve with his final effort, leaving himself vulnerable to the improving Russell, who is substituting for Lewis Hamilton this weekend after the world champion contracted COVID-19.

The young Briton started with a 0.142s deficit and set two personal best times in the second to splits, but it wasn’t enough to overturn the disadvantage, falling an agonizing 0.026s short.

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Max Verstappen usurped Mercedes’s Friday practice control to take a slender advantage into qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Dutchman set his best time of 54.064s on his first flying lap on soft tires for the evening, having run on the hard compound until late in the session. It put the Red Bull Racing driver 0.206s ahead of Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas, though the Finn surrendered at least a tenth of a second running wide past the curbs at the final corner of his best lap.

The two most likely rivals for victory this weekend were streets ahead of their teammates. Alex Albon in the second Red Bull Racing car was sixth and 0.565s off the pace, while George Russell — having topped both Friday practice sessions — slipped to seventh and 0.6s adrift in his Mercedes.

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George Russell swept Friday practice for his new Mercedes team after teammate Valtteri Bottas had several of his fastest laps deleted at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell — substituting for Lewis Hamilton this weekend after the world champion’s positive COVID test — was unable to improve on his FP1 time, but his lap of 54.713s was enough to keep him 0.128s clear at the head of the time sheet.

Bottas was on track to claim top spot with his first lap on the soft tire, but the Finn fell afoul of freshly instituted track limits at Turn 8, set at the outer edge of the curbs at the exit of the right-hander. His quickest time would have beaten Russell’s best by 0.2s before it and two subsequent laps were deleted for driving off the track, leaving him 11th.

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George Russell ended his debut timed session as a Mercedes driver at the top of the charts at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell, seconded from Williams to deputize for Lewis Hamilton while the world champion recovers from COVID-19, lapped the 2.202-mile ‘outer loop’ configuration of the Bahrain International Circuit in just 52.564s.

The 22-year-old Briton looked immediately at home in the black car. His feedback via team radio was focused mostly on adjusting to the functions and steering wheel controls of his new machine, and his only major problem appeared to be some shoulder discomfort as he squeezed into a cockpit designed for Hamilton, who stands approximately 4.3 inches shorter than his substitute.

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SEN Drive, 5 January: Australian Grand Prix Postponement

Romain Grosjean’s survival from his horror fireball smash in Bahrain is all down to motorsport’s pursuit of excellence.

Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix after a fiery first-lap crash for Romain Grosjean saw the race suspended for more than an hour.

Grosjean’s Haas split in half and exploded into a fireball after smashing through the steel barrier at the outside of Turn 3 at approximately 85mph. The Frenchman had clipped the front of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri while traveling at around 150mph, sending him spearing off the track.

His car pierced the barrier, the halo cleaving its way through metal struts, and the momentum snapped the rear of the chassis from the survival cell. Spilt fuel from the broken car then ignited the cockpit, engulfing Grosjean in flames.

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Lewis Hamilton has controlled the Bahrain Grand Prix after a fireball smash had Romain Grosjean sent to hospital and the race suspended on lap one.

Grosjean’s Haas car left the track at around 240 kilometres per hour after tangling with Daniil Kvyat at turn three and slammed into the steel barriers, breaking in two.

The front section of the car wedged itself among the rails and burst into flames, trapping the Frenchman inside for 20 seconds until he could undo his belts and climb from the burning wreckage.

Formula One returns to the familiar ground of Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but with softer tyres on offer than in previous years, the race will offer the opportunity for greater strategic play to teams and drivers.

Last year’s race was a nailed-on two-stop, but the predominance of wear from the abrasive asphalt over thermal degradation meant the hard C1 was largely eschewed for the more performative medium C2 and soft C3.

This year, however, Pirelli has gone a step softer by bringing the C4 as the soft. This to an extent has changed the complexion of the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton is on track to take a century of pole positions this season after recording his 98th qualifying triumph at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver set a new track record to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole by 0.289 seconds for Mercedes’s 11th front row lockout of the year.

Hamilton already holds the record for most pole positions in Formula One, and with two rounds remining after this weekend’s race the Briton could raise the bar to 100 at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a fortnight.

Lewis Hamilton has taken his 98th career pole with an assured performance at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 2020 champion-elect’s time of 1m27.264s was a new track record for this layout of the Bahrain International Circuit and more than 0.289s quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas could muster to deliver a Mercedes front-row lockout.

Hamilton, who already guaranteed himself the championship with victory at the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago, said he felt liberated in the car with title already secured.

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Max Verstappen led the FP3 time sheet after a quiet final hour of practice ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Dutchman broke Lewis Hamilton’s Friday practice streak with a time of 1m28.355s, the fastest lap of the weekend so far. He did so despite his Red Bull RB16 appearing to suffer from rear wing instability while using DRS, a problem his mechanics will seek to rectify in the two-hour break before qualifying.

Notwithstanding the problem, Verstappen’s time was enough to beat Hamilton to top spot by 0.263s.

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Lewis Hamilton ended Friday practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the fastest man in a night session interrupted by red flags for an Alex Albon crash.

Hamilton lowered his pre-sunset benchmark by less than a tenth to 1m28.971s with lap on fresh softs in the final 15 minutes. It was enough to beat Max Verstappen to top spot by 0.347s, although the Dutchman’s best lap was logged on medium tires after he had been unable make gains on the softs.

Valtteri Bottas was third, 0.018s behind Verstappen on his own soft tire run early in the evening.

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of opening practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. The champion-elect’s best time of 1m29.033s was 0.449s quicker than Bottas and almost a full second ahead of the next-best car, Sergio Perez’s Racing Point.

The Mexican is leading the way in the battle for fourth in the drivers standings and forging a path for Racing Point, which heads the midfield in the battle for third.

Midfield rival Carlos Sainz was just 0.18s further back for McLaren, the two teams split by only six points.

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Trent Price from eRacing Magazine joins Michael and the empty chairs not filled by Rob or Peter to talk about the psychological effects of engine failure, spinning in the heat of battle and being French.