Sergio Perez says his first win in Formula 1 is the realization of a dream he has chased for 10 years after his dramatic victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc had hit Perez at Turn 4 on the opening lap and spun the Racing Point, relegating him to the back of the field at the start. From there, Perez pulled off a one-stop strategy and after multiple overtakes rose to the lead when a Mercedes pit stop error badly hampered George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, before a late fightback from Russell was halted by a puncture.
“I’m a bit speechless,” Perez said. “I hope I’m not dreaming, because I’ve dreamed for so many years of being in this moment. Ten years it took me. Incredible, I mean… I don’t know what to say.
“After the first lap the race was again gone, same as last weekend. But it was all about not giving up, recovering and going for it, just making the best we possibly could. This season, the luck hasn’t been with us this year but we finally got it and I think we won today on merit. Yeah, the Mercs had some issues but in the end my pace was strong enough to hold George, who did a fantastic race today.
“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.”
While Perez overtook teammate Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon before inheriting the lead, Russell had cleared both while recovering from his pit stop problems and was closing on the Mexican, but Perez feels he’d have been able to keep the Mercedes at bay even without Russell’s late puncture.
“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 tires 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 (faster), 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 tires, 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.”
Perez is without a drive for next season and is being considered by Red Bull as a potential replacement for Alex Albon, but he says the impact of the win is more of a personal one.
“It just makes me a bit more peaceful with myself, to be honest. What happens is not so much in my hands at the moment. But I know and I want to keep going, but if I’m not on the grid next year I will be back in 2022.”