Racing Point’s Sergio Perez reflects on being the first Mexican in 50 years to win a Grand Prix as he fought back from 18th to claim a maiden career victory.
A “shocked” and delighted Sergio Perez says he dreamed of winning his first Formula 1 race “so many times that it hurts”, admitting that he feared he would never get the chance to stand on the top step of the podium.
Perez has been one of F1’s most consistent drivers of the last decade but, while claiming plenty of podiums, has more often than not been battling in the midfield rather than for top positions.
On Sunday, however, Perez broke his F1 duck in style with Racing Point, recovering from a first-lap collision that left him at the back before capitalising on Mercedes and George Russell’s woes.
- Sergio Perez wins first race from last after George Russell puncture pain
- George Russell escapes DSQ as Mercedes fined, explain pit blunder
He is a popular winner, and a record-breaking one – as no driver has ever waited as long as Perez, who now has 190 F1 race starts, for their first victory.
“I’m shocked, you know?” Perez told Sky F1. “I don’t want to be too excited because I’ve dreamed of this moment so many times that when I wake up it hurts. I have to make sure this is not a dream.”
Perez, who made his F1 debut in 2011, added: “It’s been so many years for it to come.
“There were times when I thought it was never going to come because I’ve never had a car capable of doing something like it did today. We did a tremendous race.”
Perez is also the first Mexican winner in 50 years.
“It’s such a moment in my life,” he said. “For my family. For myself. Being there at the top of the podium, listening to the Mexican national anthem and looking at my flag. As a Mexican, it’s not easy to get into Formula 1 and to maintain here when there are not a lot of opportunities. I’m very pleased with it.”
Perez’s recovery – and will he really leave F1 next year?
Perez’s win was all the more remarkable because of his opening lap, when he was shunted into by Charles Leclerc after starting fifth. He also complained of tyre issues after his forced early stop, but still displayed immense pace.
Perez has built his F1 reputation on being a great, and error-free, racer though not necessarily a great overtaker or late lunger – but masterfully carved his way through the field on Sunday.
Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson looks at the key moments that led to Sergio Perez’s first Formula One win at the Sakhir GP.
“It was a crazy race today,” Perez, who was set for a podium last weekend in Bahrain before a late reliability failure, said. “When I got hit on the first lap I thought, not again. It cannot be us again. Another weekend, another opportunity and I got hit by another car.
“I thought I had a bit of damage, I was lucky not to. I made a big lock-up under the Safety Car and we were discussing whether to pit or not. There was a point in the race where the vibrations were so bad, I couldn’t hold the wheel.
“Once we went onto the other set of tyres, I told my team wow this feels like a limousine. It was looking good, but we never thought we were going to win.”
But win, he did. Yet Perez is still, with just one round remaining in F1 2020, a free agent for next season. Racing Point are replacing him with Sebastian Vettel, while no other team has snapped him up yet.
Only Mercedes, who are set to retain Lewis Hamilton, and Red Bull have seats available. Red Bull will make a final decision after the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, but are intent on keeping Alex Albon.
Albon was one of many drivers Perez comfortably overtook at the Sakhir GP – surely giving Christian Horner’s team plenty to think about.
“I’m more determined than ever to stay on the grid,” Perez stated. “I’m 30 years old, so I think the best years of my career are ahead of me. I want to be here. But it’s out of my hands.”