Verstappen’s double championship did not come to Singapore. But Red Bull has not gone unnoticed. As if to demoralize the competition and demonstrate his current superiority in F1, he dominated the 17th stage of the World Championship with his second driver.
Perez won. It is the Mexican’s fourth victory in F1, his second this season. Leclerc finished second, with Sainz third. Verstappen had a tough Sunday and finished only seventh, postponing the championship decision.
With the result, the Dutchman moved up to 341 points, compared to 237 for Leclerc and 235 for Pérez. There are 104 points ahead of the Dutchman over the Monegasque.
To secure the bi next Sunday at Suzuka, Verstappen needs to increase that gap to 112.
Among other combinations, a victory with the fastest lap in Japan, even with Leclerc second, closes the bill. It is very possible that this will happen…
It was a busy night in Singapore. The start of the GP was postponed by one hour and five minutes because of the heavy rains that fell there. Caution is always good, but the race direction exaggerates: with 30 minutes, the track already had full race conditions.
Pole position for the ninth time this year, Leclerc did well, but lost pace and was passed by Pérez before the first corner. In the row behind, Sainz and Hamilton touched, and the Spaniard took third position. Verstappen, eighth on the grid, also turned bad and dropped to 12th.
The top 10 at the end of the first lap included Pérez, Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton, Norris, Alonso, Gasly, Vettel, Tsunoda and Stroll.
With the track still quite wet, few precautions were taken, especially as the cars approached. Ideal for Mexican. Having no one in front of him, he tried to take advantage of it. On the third lap, he was already more than 1 second ahead of Leclerc. By the fifth lap, the gap was already 1s3.
“It’s not drying out as fast as we thought it would,” Norris said on the radio, giving insight into whoever was there, accelerating in those conditions.
There, Verstappen was trying to react. He stretched to ninth position, but stayed there.
But it didn’t take long for an old acquaintance from Singapore to show up: the safety car.
On lap eight, Latifi swerved: he veered left at turn 5 as if there was no tomorrow and hit Zhou. The Chinese remained on the wall, and the Canadian was penalized five grid positions at the Japanese GP.
This was the 21st intervention in 13 editions of the competition. It’s already a tradition: every race in Singapore has at least one safety car.
This time, however, the scenario that followed was a bit different: there was no pit rush. With the track still wet, there was no reason to change the intermediate tyres.
The restart comes on the 11th lap. Pérez kept the lead and Verstappen tried to attack. He overtakes Vettel and Gasly and, at the end of the lap, he is already in seventh place, with Alonso in front of him.
Pérez then resumed his work. In four laps, he was already 1s5 behind Leclerc.
“We’re already close to the slicks,” Sainz told the radio on the 18th. “Is there a dry line? I can’t see it from the car,” Alonso asked shortly after.
That didn’t give the Spaniard much time to think about the strategy. Moments later he was left on the track at Turn 12 with car trouble. A frustrating end to his 350th GP _ equaling Raikkonen as the race record holder in the category.
Virtual safety car! And it was up to Russell, who started from the pit lane after changing the powertrain components, to put on the slicks. He has become a guinea pig. All eyes on him!
But it wasn’t easy. From the start, the Englishman slipped. The following laps were dramatic for him, even at a slower pace than his competitors.
At 26, another virtual safety car: Albon crashed at turn 8, but managed to maneuver and take the car to the pits, where he retired. What a Sunday for Williams…
It was not easy. At 28, Ocon was another to retire, the engine smoking and spilling oil everywhere. Another virtual safety car, the third in the GP. What a Sunday for Alpine…
No, it wasn’t easy. Not even for a seven-time world champion. In the 33rd, it was with Hamilton. He escaped, crashed, and when he came back on the track, he was between Norris and Verstappen and his wing was swinging dangerously…
Do you remember Russell? Well, with the track already dry, he started to pick up speed. It was the password for the first pit window.
Everyone went to the pits and put on slicks, with most opting for medium.
But then another interruption came. Tsunoda, already on new tyres, crashed at turn 10. Safety car, second of the day, 22nd in 13 races in Singapore.
There were four more drowsy laps, and in that interval Race Control started the timer on the screen. The end of the race would be defined by the two-hour limit, not the 61 laps.
On restart, a little emotion. Verstappen went straight into turn 7 as he tried to attack Norris. He held the car masterfully, but had to go to the pits to change the tyres. He fell to 13th place.
27 minutes from the end, the DRS is released. It was Leclerc’s password to give everything on Pérez.
It was an intense chase, with a scene that was always repeated: the Monegasque approaching on the straights, the Mexican breathing in the turns. Every now and then a fried tire here and there. It was beautiful to see.
I admit that I imagined that Leclerc would pass, even to have the chance to deploy the wing. But Pérez has done too well, the man of the race.
Ah yes: the general practitioner found himself with an ongoing investigation. Pérez allegedly committed an infraction during the last restart, which will be analyzed after the race. This shouldn’t accomplish anything. If it was something serious, the FIA would work it out during the race, not let the podium happen.
Alerted by the radio, the Mexican tried to accelerate hard in the last laps and to create a safety margin in the event of a penalty. Crossed the finish line with more than five seconds to go.
“It was my best performance in F1. These last laps were very intense,” Pérez said at the end of the race. Was really.
The day was his. And the championship is almost that of the journeyman.
“Total troublemaker. Alcohol aficionado. Social media specialist. Friendly travel nerd.”