by F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) — Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took a lights-to-flag win in Sunday’s F1 Singapore Grand Prix, as championship leader Max Verstappen finished only seventh after making an error and ruining a set of tyres.
An eventful and rain-affected race that hit the two-hour time limit also witnessed two separate Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car periods, as drivers struggled to cope with slippery conditions and the unforgiving walls of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Verstappen could have sealed the 2022 F1 World Championship title if he had won the race and seen his key rivals score low points, but the Dutchman faced an uphill struggle from only eighth on the grid, after having aborted his final qualifying run on Saturday over fuel concerns.
After a slow start that saw him lose four places on the opening lap, Verstappen had clawed his way up to fifth, but locked his tyres badly when trying to pass the McLaren of Lando Norris, necessitating an extra pit stop for a new set and ruining any chance of challenging for victory.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton also had an inconsistent race, coming home ninth after two separate errors, one of which resulted in a replacement front wing.
Heavy rain saw the start delayed by one hour, and when the race did get underway, all the drivers were on Intermediate tyres, with Perez getting the better of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc to pass the Ferrari for the lead at Turn 1.
Though Leclerc put Perez under intense pressure, especially in the mid-portion of the race, the Mexican was able to keep the Monegasque at bay to take his second win of the season and the fourth of his career.
The Mexican’s win remains provisional, however, as stewards investigate a Safety Car infringement. Conscious of a potential time penalty, Red Bull instructed Perez to push hard towards the end of the race to build a gap to Leclerc, with the Mexican eventually crossing the line 7.6 seconds ahead of the Ferrari.
“Certainly my best performance,” said Perez afterwards. “I controlled the race, the last few laps were so intense. I gave it everything for the win today. I have no idea what’s going on [with the investigation]. I was just told to increase the gap. All in all, a fantastic day.”
Behind the top two, Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium for Ferrari, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finishing a strong fourth and fifth, after both gained positions thanks to a fortuitously-timed Safety Car period.
Lance Stroll took a strong sixth place for Aston Martin, with Verstappen salvaging seventh after his eventful race, passing Stroll’s teammate Sebastian Vettel on the final lap.
Behind Hamilton, Pierre Gasly rounded out the points positions in his AlphaTauri. George Russell finished outside the points for Mercedes after an early switch to slick tyres proved to be the wrong call.
In a race of unusual attrition by modern F1 standards, Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon, Alex Albon, Fernando Alonso, Nicholas Latifi and Zhou Guanyu all failed to see the chequered flag.
Despite a poor afternoon, Verstappen still leads the Drivers’ Championship with 341 points. The Dutchman is 104 points ahead of second-placed Leclerc, and will win the title at next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix if he ends that race with a points lead of at least 112.
Leclerc now has 237 points, but Perez’s win means he has closed to within two points of the Monegasque.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull still lead and now have 576 points. Ferrari stay second with 439, and Mercedes remain third with 373 points.
Next weekend sees F1 head to Suzuka for the first Japanese Grand Prix since 2019.