There must have been surmountable pressure felt by George Russell ahead of his first start for Mercedes, as everyone’s eyes were on Max Verstappen’s attack from the right. However Russell had his eyes on one thing and one thing only, the race lead.
Shock and Awe was the tactic at hand as the Brit had an excellent getaway, going wheel to wheel with Valtteri Bottas down the straight and taking the inside line through turn one. In sheer desperation, Bottas pushed excessively hard out of the corner, causing his rear end to snap, compromising his exit and leaving him firmly in Russell's mirrors.
Carnage unfolded at turn two as out of nowhere, an overly optimistic Charles Leclerc attempted to squeeze his Ferrari down the inside of Sergio Perez but predictably shunted straight into the Mexican’s rear right wheel. Leclerc’s front left suspension was obliterated and the stricken Ferrari scuttled across the track towards Verstappen who went wide to take avoiding action. In doing so, he went onto the gravel where he couldn’t slow down in time to avoid the barriers and crashed out of the race.
The safety car was released and Perez pitted to replace his damaged tyres, coming out right at the back. Impressively, a composed Russell maintained his lead and continued where he left off after the restart.
Russell maintained control and held a healthy two-second gap over Bottas, who was pushing hard to claim back his lead. At just over half-distance, the leader pitted to switch to hard tyres and proceeded to set the fastest lap of the race. Try all his might, Bottas came back out a further eight seconds behind Russell after the pitstops.
Elsewhere, Sergio Perez was flying through the field, picking off drivers one by one until he found himself back up to third. His night was evolving into an amazing recovery drive.
On lap 63, debris on the track left by F1 debutant Jack Aitken’s spin brought out a safety car and that’s when Mercedes’ race unraveled.
They attempted to double stack their drivers in the pits but got it completely wrong. They gave Russell a set of Mediums that belonged to Bottas, only realising once they’d released him and when it was too late. In all the confusion, Bottas was stationary with an overheating break for 30 seconds and left the box with the tyres he arrived on.
Mercedes pitted Russell again immediately to rectify the problem and avoid receiving a penalty, sending him back out in fifth on a fresh set of mediums behind Bottas. After controlling the lead for so long, Russell now had a huge job on his hands to fight for the win. Throughout all this, it was who else but Perez who profited by inheriting the lead.
A determined Russell wasted no time in fighting back, climbing up to second within three laps including an awesome move on the outside of Bottas who was now limping around on old tyres.
He continued to close the gap on race leader Perez when agonizingly, his rear tyre suffered a puncture with only ten laps to go, forcing him to pit and rejoin in fifteenth. The chances of a race win were well and truly over.
Perez held his nerve and stormed across the line to claim his first ever Formula 1 victory, sealing an epic recovery drive and making a statement to the teams that have not yet signed him for 2021. Emotions ran high as Esteban Ocon finished second to taste the champagne for the first time and Lance Stroll sealed Racing Point’s first ever double podium, what a difference a week makes!
A heartbroken Russell managed to recover to ninth to claim his first ever points finish as well as the fastest lap award but following such an incredible debut for Mercedes, it should have been so much more. After a faultless effort, it was only the forthcomings of his team that compromised the twenty-two year old's chances of getting his first win. His monumental drive is a clear sign that his time will come.
Perez finally claimed a well deserved victory after being a beloved part of the sport for so long. After coming from last to first, need he say more as to why he deserves a seat for next year?