Racing Point’s Sergio Perez pledged to find a way to prolong his Formula 1 career after taking his maiden victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Mexican is out of contract for next season and his only possibility for a drive is if Red Bull pick him for their second seat.
“After today, I’m determined to be here,” said 30-year-old Perez.
“My best option is to keep going next year but if I have to stop it is not a disaster, I can come back in 2022.”
Perez’s team decided to replace him for 2021 with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel after the German was dropped by Ferrari. The other car is occupied by Lance Stroll, son of Racing Point’s billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll.
Perez, who made his F1 debut in 2011, said victory in his 190th grand prix “gives me a bit more peace with myself. What happens is not so much in my hands. I want to keep going”.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that the team will not decide whether to keep on British-Thai driver Alex Albon alongside Max Verstappen next year until after the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi next weekend.
Albon had a disappointing weekend in Bahrain, qualifying 12th and finishing sixth. German Nico Hulkenberg is also a potential contender for the seat.
Perez’s win came after an outstanding drive in which he was demoted to the back of the field when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed into him on the opening lap.
Perez fought back up through the field and in the closing stages benefited from a pit-lane error by Mercedes which dropped their drivers George Russell and Valtteri Bottas out of first and second places.
Russell, substituting for Lewis Hamilton after the world champion contracted coronavirus, was trying to chase Perez down in the final laps when he suffered a puncture.
Perez said: “I am a bit shocked, to be honest. I don’t find the words. I’m a bit in limbo right now.
“As a driver you dream for this time, to be in this position, for so many years. I worked my whole life for a moment like this. To finally achieve it… It’s difficult to digest. I think it will take a couple of days, but it’s just something incredible.”
He is the first Mexican to win an F1 world championship race since Pedro Rodriguez triumphed in the Belgian Grand Prix in 1970.
Perez attracts huge crowds to his home race, which was cancelled this year as a result of the pandemic, and said he expected his win to be treated with joy back home.
“It means a lot, a lot to me, especially this year,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for all the world so to have this kind of happiness at the homes for many Mexicans means a lot to me, for my family, it means… just such a tremendous day, historic day in our sport.
“I’m just very pleased, you know. You’ve seen the amount of support that I get in my country. Can you imagine what it’s like at the moment?
“It’s going to be amazing. Normally the races are like six in the morning, seven in the morning. This one, it’s on a Sunday, 11 o’clock and I’m sure by now they will be having some good tequilas in half of the country!”
Renault’s Esteban Ocon, who scored a maiden podium finish by finishing second in Bahrain, said Perez deserved to stay in F1.
Ocon, who was Perez’s team-mate in 2017 and 2018, said: “I’m glad that Sergio is obviously getting the result, you know? To show everybody that he deserves to be in Formula 1.
“He’s one of the top guys out there and he can’t be left outside. There’s no… it would not be normal. But sometimes the sport is like that, unfortunately, and you don’t end up in the best situations.”