At the inaugural Sakhir Grand Prix, Formula 1 got a glimpse of what things could look like without Lewis Hamilton. The world champion had been forced out of the race by a positive COVID-19 test, and while that misfortune ended his streak of 265 consecutive grand prix races, it gave the rest of the field a golden chance to shine.
And they took it. The weekend had been set-up as a duel between the new Mercedes line-up, with George Russell going up against Valtteri Bottas. But the pulsating battle between the duo didn't end with one picking up critical momentum for Mercedes' 2022 driver line-up decision. Instead, Sergio Perez and Racing Point came away with victory in what will surely go down as a famous grand prix thriller, which was defined by two starring drives and one calamitous pitstop.
The Mercedes duel
After Russell couldn't quite best Bottas in qualifying, but still lined up alongside him on the front row, there was intense focus on the race start. It was loaded with uncertainty given Bottas has had a season littered with poor getaways, including one seven days earlier, and Russell has a similar record for Williams. Plus, an afternoon sandstorm near the venue had created a blustery, dusty atmosphere as night rolled in, with the field making extra practice starts on the laps to the grid.