Martin Brundle on Singapore GP: Sergio Perez masters the rain amid Max Verstappen, Mercedes anger
Following a wet and wild Singapore GP weekend, Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle reviews all the major incidents, star performances and disappointments, with Max Verstappen missing his title opportunity and Mercedes their chance for a first win of the season
Last Updated: 05/10/22 6:21am
That was a typically strange but nonetheless very enjoyable event in Singapore.
It always feels a bit alien eating at 2am, sleeping at 6am and then heading in for a day's work at 3pm. It's essentially a nocturnal event with a few hours of sunlight each day.
Floodlighting dominates and brings the track and pit lane into dramatic focus for three days of concentrated F1, which is a good thing, and it was great to be back after three years of enforced absence.
Given the location and climate it's surprising how little wet running we've had over the previous 12 races but a wet track dominated the outcome of both qualifying and the race.
With no daylight and sunshine to help dry it, high humidity which negates the fact that the track surface temperature was approaching 30 degrees, and especially in the few areas which had been resurfaced or were under a structure which would continue to shed water after the rain had finished, the track simply refused to completely dry.
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We appeared to be forever on the knife edge of too dry for intermediate tyres yet too wet, especially just offline and in the braking areas, for dry tyres. Being bold and committing to slicks early was usually punished.
Over the one hour period of qualifying we went from lap times of 1m 54s on a quite wet track on intermediate tyres to only a 1m 49s pole position on slick tyres on a largely dry circuit.
Max Verstappen should have been on pole position but staying out on track for most of the final Q3 12 minutes meant that he was forced to abandon his final pole lap two corners from home in order to have enough fuel for the mandatory scrutineering checks.
Cue an extremely unhappy championship leader, and he let the team know in no uncertain terms. Barely underneath the surface of the calm and serene 2022 Max 2.0 is still quite a temper, but actually my take on that, as he heads to an inevitable second championship, is just how much pain a lost pole position and potential victory means to him despite his and the team's current dominance.
Slipping and sliding around with brake lock-ups everywhere it would be Charles Leclerc taking pole position in a tightly packed group because basically his errors were less costly than for others.
Many in the know confidently predicted the risk of rain for the GP had largely receded, but the heavens opened about 75 minutes before the race. Singapore is very used to this kind of precipitation and has the drainage gulleys to prove it, but we still waited until the weather front had completely passed before initiating the whole start procedure 65 minutes behind schedule. We have to wonder why we carry 'extreme wet' tyres all around the world if we never run when there's standing water.
Once under way, front-row starting Sergio Perez kept his rear tyres gripped-up all the way through the acceleration phase and led into the first corner, which decided the winner as it would turn out. In a most impressive fashion he would spend the next two hours managing a track which was proactively inviting you into the wall along with endless actual and virtual safety cars, all with his mirrors filled by a scarlet Ferrari with a very determined Leclerc at the wheel.
Is there a greater sporting challenge which demands so much of you mentally and physically along with the personal risk, for two hours?
Mind you, on a historical basis Sergio was very lucky to only receive a five-second penalty for a second infringement of not keeping within 10 lengths of the safety car while leading the pack. Presumably he was able to convince the stewards that on cold tyres and tricky conditions, and with the ebbing and flowing of the safety car and F1 car speeds it was all acceptable.
And so, quite a while after the race, it was confirmed as a victory any F1 driver in history would like to have on their CV, such was the challenge and intensity. Sergio occasionally goes on the missing list for a couple of races, but when challenging opportunities arise he's the man with a plan and a calm mature head.
Once again Leclerc had to suffer the frustration of not winning a race from pole position. That slight wheel spin at the start and overshooting his pit stop combined to prevent him having any chance of being in front of Perez.
It was a two-three for Ferrari but equally as frustratingly Carlos Sainz struggled for pace throughout, and with Verstappen's Red Bull in traffic and having all sorts of adventures, this was a two-horse race out front.
When I was out on track during practice it was clear that despite lapping quickly the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were working harder at the wheel, not least compared to the relative magic-carpet ride of the Ferrari.
And so it proved with George starting from the pit lane and having various contacts and issues. He was first to slick tyres which served to help everyone else as he struggled for pace initially and then suddenly when they'd switched on it was great information when yet another safety car appeared. George would finish 14th out of the 14 runners to complete a hugely frustrating weekend.
Lewis wasn't having much better luck in ninth place after braking way too late for Turn Seven and clouting the barriers rather than heading down the escape road. Then he tried a move on Sebastian Vettel on the wet line into Turn 8 and lost out to Verstappen, who had also been down the escape road of Turn Seven and was seemingly on a permanent recovery drive for two hours.
Lewis has had a bit of bother in combat in more recent races which is likely indicative of a difficult car. They'll be pleased to see the back of this one.
With Alpine having a double DNF with power unit failures this left McLaren to grab fourth and fifth for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo to move the team into fourth in the world championship. Lando did a sterling job, and even if he was fortunate with the safety car, so did Daniel.
Aston Martin came in sixth and eighth for Lance Stroll and Seb which was another very solid performance for them at the same time as leapfrogging to seventh in the constructors' championship.
As ever, changeable conditions thoroughly energised the race and provided the thrills and spills and jeopardy. I was in awe of the drivers on the evening facing up to and largely beating that particular challenge with such immensely fast and powerful cars.