Singapore GP: Sergio Perez holds off Charles Leclerc for victory in chaotic race as Max Verstappen denied title
Sergio Perez held off Charles Leclerc to claim victory at the Singapore Grand Prix; Perez forced to wait more than two hours after race for confirmation of win after stewards' investigation; Max Verstappen misses out on chance to seal world championship as Dutchman finishes seventh
Last Updated: 03/10/22 6:04am
Sergio Perez held off Charles Leclerc to win a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix as Max Verstappen was forced to wait to seal the world championship after finishing seventh.
Red Bull's Perez had to wait two and a half hours for his victory to be confirmed, as stewards investigated him for leaving too much distance between himself and the safety car on two separate occasions during the race, which also saw three virtual safety car deployments.
The FIA ultimately decided to penalise Perez with a five-second penalty, which meant he kept his second win of the season, having finished 7.5 seconds clear of Leclerc.
Perez passed pole-sitter Leclerc off the line at the start and withstood heavy pressure from the Monegasque for large portions of the gruelling contest at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, with the race ending at the two-hour time limit as the multiple interruptions ensured the full 61 laps could not be completed.
"It was certainly my best performance," Perez said. "I controlled the race.
"The last three laps were so intense - when I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything today."
Singapore's stunning night race, which was being held for the first time in three years after the coronavirus pandemic saw the previous two editions cancelled, only finished shortly after 11pm local time after a torrential downpour delayed the start by over an hour, with the drivers starting on intermediate tyres before switching to slicks midway through in testing slippery conditions.
Verstappen, who needed to win the race from eighth on the grid to have any chance of claiming his second successive title, looked to be coming into contention for a podium place before making an error that flat-spotted his tyres and forced him to pit.
The Dutchman's world championship lead was reduced to 104 points, with Leclerc staying two points ahead of Perez in second, but Verstappen will have more a realistic chance of closing out a dominant campaign in Japan next weekend.
Carlos Sainz finished third for Ferrari despite lacking pace throughout the race, while McLaren struck a huge blow in the battle for fourth in the constructors' championship as Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth and fifth respectively after both Alpine cars retired with engine failures.
Lewis Hamilton endured a torrid afternoon, finishing ninth after losing third place to Sainz at the start, before being fortunate to continue having driven into the barrier at Turn 7 as he attempted to overtake the Spaniard.
It was also a strong afternoon for Aston Martin, with Lance Stroll sixth and team-mate Sebastian Vettel eighth, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the points-scoring positions in a race that saw just 14 cars finish after six retirements.
Singapore GP Final Result, Top 10
1) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
6) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
7) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
8) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
9) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
10) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
Perez holds on to win after safety car 'miscommunication'
All the talk coming into Formula 1's return to Singapore was about whether Verstappen would be able to pull off the unlikely feat of sealing the title, with the Dutchman having arrived in imperious form after five successive victories.
However, after a Red Bull mishap in qualifying saw Verstappen left to start down in eighth, the team's hopes of victory on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult were left with Perez, who had surprised many by putting himself on the front row.
After a strong start to the season, including a victory at Monaco, Perez was being touted as a title rival for Verstappen, but his form has fallen away in the second half of the campaign, with just one podium coming during his team-mate's recent run of five wins.
As a result, even after Perez's strong qualifying performance, few were talking about him as a likely race winner as buzz built for the sold-out race on Sunday.
The 32-year-old made the best possible start as he got the jump on Leclerc at the start to lead into the first corner, and initially opening a gap.
However, as the pair pulled away from Sainz, Leclerc began to close, and after a crash between Nicholas Latifi and Zhou Guanyu triggered the first safety car of the race, the Ferrari began to apply pressure.
It was revealed after the race that during that first safety car period, Perez was reprimanded by the stewards for not staying within the required 10 car lengths.
Three virtual safety cars followed, one triggered by Alex Albon crashing and the other two by the Alpine failures, but the leaders opted not to pit with their worn intermediate tyres remaining the best option with the drying track not yet ready for slicks.
Leclerc's best opportunity to pass was likely to come with the pit stops, and with the track finally dry enough for slicks, the Ferrari came in first, but immediately damaged his chances by overshooting his pit markings to cause a longer stop.
That meant when Perez pitted a lap later he came out comfortably ahead, but another safety car, this time triggered by Yuki Tsunoda crashing, bunched up the field once more.
It was at this point that Perez was once more guilty of the same infringement going through Turn 9 and 10, with the race director this time issuing a direct warning to Red Bull to be passed onto the driver.
Despite the warning, Perez then did the same thing in Turn 13 and 14, which was the offence for which he was given the five-second penalty.
The issue was put on the back-burner as the stewards announced it would be reviewed after the race, and on the slicks, Leclerc appeared to have the pace to get past Perez, applying huge pressure as DRS was enabled for the first time with just over 30 minutes of the race remaining.
However, a wobble from the Ferrari allowed Perez out of DRS range, and he never relinquished his advantage, before even showing additional pace to crucially extend his lead in the closing stages in anticipation of a potential penalty.
Before his victory was confirmed, Perez said: "I'm pretty confident there's nothing (wrong) with it because there was a bit of miscommunication with (safety car driver) Bernd Maylander.
"I think, on the places where I could keep up with him, he was super-slow, and the places where I could not keep up with him, he was fast, so it was a bit of miscommunication there.
"But I think these conditions are not normal. So it's fully understandable that the conditions that we were in, we were facing, especially the final sector, were super tricky.
"So I do expect no further action in that as the stewards were pleased with my explanation and they understood it."
Hope fades for Hamilton and Verstappen
It was a day that began with hope for Hamilton, who was seeking a first victory of Mercedes' disappointing season, and for Verstappen, who retained faint hopes of sealing the title, or at least extending his five-race winning streak.
However, losing a place to Sainz at the start proved to be a terminal blow to Hamilton's hopes, as the Spaniard's lack of pace meant Hamilton was never given the clear air to show if he had the speed to rival the front two.
Having trailed Sainz closely for most of the race, frustration got the better of Hamilton on lap 33, as he locked up attempting to pressure Sainz and went straight on into the barrier at Turn 7.
The seven-time world champion was fortunate to sustain manageable damage to his front wing and was even able to keep Verstappen behind him after re-joining the track in fifth.
However, with the incident coinciding with the point at which the track was becoming slick-ready, Mercedes opted to pit Hamilton for a new front wing as well as new tyres.
Verstappen made an even worse start, dropping four places to 12th as he almost stalled getting off the grid, and then made minor contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
However, he quickly recovered, climbing to seventh before being held up by Alonso, whose timely retirement, from Verstappen's perspective, put the Dutchman up to sixth.
Hamilton's mishap put both Verstappen and Norris ahead of him up a place further, but at the restart from the final safety car, the Red Bull driver would make a mistake similar to his great rival's.
Attempting to steal a march on Norris, Verstappen flat-spotted his tyres as he locked up and went down the escape road, and then needed to pit for fresh tyres.
He would fight back once more, eventually closing in on Hamilton, who was stuck behind seventh-placed Vettel in the final stages, as the three world champions formed a train in the closing stages.
It was Hamilton who blinked, locking up once more as he went for an overtake on Vettel, allowing Verstappen through, before the Dutchman also got past the Aston Martin on the final lap to end an eventful afternoon.
"It's not where we want to be," Verstappen said. "Yesterday, you put yourself in a spot like that and it can either work brilliantly and you can drive back to the front or you or it's very frustrating like we had.
"It's just incredibly messy."
Hamilton's struggles were part of a hugely disappointing weekend for Mercedes, with George Russell last of the classified finishers having started from the pit lane and then gambled on putting on slick tyres before the track was ready for them.
The dismal result saw Ferrari strengthen their grip on second in the constructors' championship, establishing a 66-point lead to halt Mercedes' recent gains.
"I think we started off with a pretty decent weekend and were just really, really unfortunate at the end," Hamilton said. "It was difficult to overtake and that lock-up into Turn 7 - when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.
"It all went out the window when I locked up, so my apologies to the team, but we live and learn, and I'll recover."
McLaren's haul of 22 points from Norris and Ricciardo, who largely minded their own business in sensible drives, saw the British team leapfrog Alpine and take a four-point lead in the battle for fourth.
Elsewhere, Latifi was handed a five-place grid penalty for next week's race in Japan, for causing the crash which knocked him and Zhou out of the race.