Come in number 77, your time is up.
Last weekend, I couldn't watch the Sakhir Grand Prix live, due to the race start time being ten past five PM, and a little something called The Burning Truth taking place LIVE from 6 PM (In both cases UK time, obviously). With that in mind, I'd like to share my thoughts here about what turned out to be one of the best races of 2020 and a fantastic example of how brilliant F1 can be at its very best.
Now, I think it's only fair to warn you (just in case you live somewhere with a six-day time delay and haven't seen it yet) that this article will contain race results spoilers. If you're OK with that, keep reading.
Coming off the back of all 87 breathlessly wonderful laps of the race, I think that there are four men in Formula One who will have come away seismically different to how they went in; two for the better and two for the worse.
Starting with the two who came off best, then. It seems sensible to say that George Russell had an afternoon he will never forget, and he will have left Bahrain knowing he has immeasurably enhanced his reputation and standing with his performance, even if perhaps he didn't get the result his peerless drive deserved. I think it's the least he deserves to be given another shot in the Mercedes for the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP this weekend, but we all know Lewis Hamilton is one of the most competitive men in the world (You don't win seven F1 World Championships if you're not) and so he will be in the car if his recovery from his positive Coronavirus test goes as well as we're all secretly hoping it does.
As we all know, you don't always get what you want in F1. You need to look no further for proof of that than the man who took full advantage of the Mercedes pit stop meltdown to break a record of his own and claim his maiden GP win in his 190th attempt, Sergio Perez. the man who sits fourth in the driver's championship (despite missing two races mid-season with his own positive Coronavirus test result) must be smiling from ear to ear, but at the same time wondering what the management at his Racing point team were thinking.
Sure, when they decided that for their 2021 re-brand to Aston Martin Racing they would replace fourth in the table (and now race winner) Sergio Perez with 13th in the table Sebastian Vettel, they probably saw it as gaining the experience of a former four-time Champion. However, Vettel has looked a shadow of his former self for much of his time at Ferrari, and after another anonymous drive and finish outside the points in a season littered with them, the decision has looked more conspicuous by the race, and was only highlighted as even more ridiculous after Sergio's win. It should go without saying at this point then that the first of the two drivers who will have left Bahrain under a cloud (metaphorically at least, as even in the night of the race there wasn't one in the sky all weekend) is Sebastian Vettel.
The other driver with a diminished reputation after the dust had settled was Valtteri Bottas. No amount of looking for positives or blaming the team can hide the fact he was having a miserable race from the moment Russell out-dragged him off the line to lead into turn one. Sure, the nightmare of the team's pit stops gave him an excuse, but by that stage, he was already being proven to be nothing more than a number two driver by his stand-in teammate from the moment Russell drove around the outside of him like he wasn't moving (and without the aid of DRS, to boot) to reclaim his position ahead of him on the track after the first (and as it turned out, least troublesome) round of stops.
You have to think that in the back of his mind, Bottas will be immensely happy to already have his one-year contract extension at Mercedes signed off because, on the back of that performance, they wouldn't even negotiate with him now. Oh, and that's before we already consider that Sergio Perez was already signed up and under contract to Racing Point before the team decided that they were going to forgo it anyway and sign a lackluster German to take his seat out from under him.
So the worst affected was Bottas, who surely in the back of his mind knows that short of winning by lapping the entire field in Abu Dhabi this weekend, then he may well be hearing the title of this article in his ears, as his race engineer calls time on his Mercedes career. It wouldn't really be fair, but then, ask Sergio Perez about fair. Life is what you make of it, and Bottas is making a right dog's dinner of it at the moment.
PS I was thinking of tying this blog post into the whole TBT wrestling coverage thing by calling this entry 'Now can you dig that, Sakhir?' but... I guess the crossover audience of F1 and Booker T catchphrase fans is too vanishingly small for me to get away with it.
Get in touch on the Burning Truth social media pages and let me know if I was, in fact, wrong...