Sergio Pérez wins the wet Singapore Formula One Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen has to wait.. Singapore’s Grand Prix was supposed to be a clinching race for Max Verstappen’s championship, but there was confusion and regret instead of a coronation.
His wasn’t the only case of a world champion being arrested in Marina Bay. Lewis Hamilton was among a swathe of drivers caught out as these gladiators at the top of motor racing lumbered in ungainly style into the barriers under an unforgiving, floodlit glare.
After several incidents necessitated five interruptions by the safety and virtual safety car, Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez won the race with a convincing victory over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, demonstrating that the track could be tamed even in difficult, wet conditions.
It was Pérez’s fourth win and the finest of his career, in that he mastered the tricky track and fought off a race-long push from Leclerc. His triumph hung in the balance for more than two hours afterwards for a safety‑car infringement but the five‑second penalty imposed did not lose him the place.
However, what had captivated his eye was now behind him while others, with far less grace, careened around the circuit. And that includes Max Verstappen, who had the worst race of his entire season, starting in second place but finishing seventh after a wild ride of surging up the ranks and then sliding back.
The extent of just how far off his recent form had been was plain as he sat slumped on the ground afterward, apparently baffled by a horrible day.
Having qualified seventh, Verstappen started off at a disadvantage. Worse followed as the Dutchman cursed his luck.
His car’s anti-stall feature engaged at the start, dropping him from second to 12th place in a matter of seconds.
The victory he needed to win the championship was already gone, but he came back and advanced to fourth place following the pit stops at the halfway point of the race, only to have it slip away.
The cool, collected Verstappen who had won 11 races this season with complete dominance seemed to evaporate in the sweltering conditions of Singapore after yet another safety car.
After the restart, he gave it everything he had, but he was way too confident and raced too fast into turn seven. He froze up when trying to go around Lando Norris and continued on straight into the exit.
The floodlights made it impossible to hide, and the races were a complete joke.
This hurting wasn’t over, either. The lock-up shot his tyres and he was forced to pit and emerged in 14th, at the back of the race. Another remarkable fightback ensued to secure eighth, a reminder of how well he can perform, but it was far from where he wants to be and he was properly harsh in his appraisal.
“I’m not really here for that,” he remarked. “Not with a car like that, it was really messy.”
Still, Verstappen’s season-long dominance puts him in prime position to win the title at the upcoming Japanese round. With 104 points more than Leclerc and 106 more than Pérez, he is clearly in the lead. If he finishes the Suzuka race with a lead of 112 points or more over the other two drivers, he will win his second championship. A victory will still do if Leclerc doesn’t place better than second.
Hamilton, like the rest of us, had hoped for better, but he too was surprisingly lacking. Being trapped behind the third-placed Ferrari driven by Carlos Sainz plainly frustrated him; on lap 33, he pushed in too deep at turn seven and fell nose-first into the barriers.
It was a rare slip-up for the seven-time winner, who hasn’t made one like that in nearly a decade. The track was still lumpy and slick, and his car was difficult to control, but as he drove into the water, it was like something out of a dream.
Due to a damaged front wing, he dropped to ninth place, but Hamilton kept his head high the entire race. He apologized, “I fucked it up big time, I am very sorry about that people.” I apologize to the group, but mistakes happen and we all grow from them. I refuse to be hard on myself because of a single blunder.
There was the company for our two victors. Alex Albon buried his front wing so firmly in the barrier that it refused to budge as he sped off, and Yuki Tsunoda followed suit, both drivers crashing into the barriers.
Pérez, though, displayed no such weaknesses. He deserved a great triumph, having gained the lead from Leclerc off the line – after an hour-long delay to the start because of the severe rain – and kept it throughout.
There were no flaws, indeed he saw off significant pressure from Leclerc in the final quarter and opened enough of a gap to nullify the penalty the management had warned him might be enforced. The Mexican knew he had earned the victory.
“It was undoubtedly my greatest performance,” Pérez added. “The last five laps were so hard I didn’t feel it so much in the vehicle but when I got out I felt it. I risked it all to come out on top.”
The championship’s next stop is at Suzuka, where Verstappen will be hoping for a return to form. It would make sense to perform worthy of a championship more spectacular than what was seen in Singapore.
For McLaren, Lando Norris finished fourth, and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth. While Pierre Gasly finished 10th for AlphaTauri, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
Read more: Sergio Perez: Witnessed “epic” final laps at British Grand Prix