Perez stars to score Force India’s first podium in 5 years

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Despite all eyes being on the remarkable battle at the front between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez claimed a brilliant third place finish in today’s Bahrain Grand Prix, marking Force India’s first podium finish in almost five years.

In fact, it was just the second podium in the history of the team. Giancarlo Fisichella had the honor of scoring the first for Force India at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, and despite many great drives and close calls since, the team has not managed to reach the top three.

Today in Bahrain, though, both Perez and teammate Nico Hulkenberg performed admirably to fight for the final podium position. After the safety car period, Hulkenberg was unable to hold back Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who then set his sights on Perez in third place. However, he could not get past the Mexican driver and was forced to settle for fourth place come the checkered flag.

Just as Hamilton and Rosberg fought for position at the front, Perez and Hulkenberg were side-by-side for most of the race on Sunday evening. Both drivers kept the racing fair, though, and the two stop strategy worked well for the team as Williams – who also appeared to be in the hunt for a podium finish – faded badly after stopping three times. Felipe Massa eventually crossed the line in seventh place ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was eighth.

However, Force India is still waiting to taste champagne for a second time in Formula 1. With Bahrain being a dry state, rosewater is sprayed on the podium, although it is unlikely that the team will have been too disappointed about that in the wake of such a good result.

This result also marks Perez’s first podium finish since the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, having failed to finish any higher than fifth last year with McLaren.

Having taken Perez on after his sacking by McLaren, team principal Vijay Mallya will be delighted with the result that proves the Mexican driver has not lost any of his touch in his year away. The team has now risen to second place in the constructors’ championship, trailing only behind the dominant Mercedes team.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski