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Perez wins to delay Verstappen title

Perez wins to delay Verstappen title

FORMULA ONE: Sergio Perez has won an eventful Singapore Grand Prix ahead of pole-getter Charles Leclerc to delay teammate Max Verstappen’s second championship by at least another week.

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 3 October 2022, 12:15AM

Sergio Perez celebrates victory at the Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

Sergio Perez celebrates victory at the Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

Verstappen had his first chance to win this year’s drivers title in Singapore but finished an error-prone seventh at the end of a difficult mixed-conditions race.

Only 59 of 61 laps were completed before the grand prix timed out at two hours after five caution periods and six retirements.

Perez led every lap, but after jumping Leclerc for the lead at the first turn, he had to absorb immense pressure in treacherous slippery conditions and with an engine drivability problem that cropped up in the closing stages.

It wasn’t until the final nine laps that he was able to break Leclerc’s siege, with the frustrated Monegasque diving too deep into turn 14 and falling out of DRS range.

Perez used the opportunity to turn a slender advantage into a 7.5-second victory, which he described as the strongest of his career.

“It was I think my best performance,” he said. “I controlled the race.

“I pushed. I gave everything for the win today.”

Leclerc said his race was lost at the start, when too much wheelspin in the second phase of his launch cost him the lead.

“After that it was a very difficult race,” he said. “I pushed all the way.”

The podium was completed by Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari, the Spaniard not on the pace of the leading duo but satisfied to keep it clean in the circumstances.

“It was very tough out there,” he said. “I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn’t challenge the top two guys.”

The podium ensured Verstappen left Singapore without the championship, but the Dutchman’s own scrappy performance meant he was never in contention.

He was furious to have been cost a chance at pole when his team underfuelled him for qualifying, but at the start of the race he selected the wrong engine mode from seventh on the grid and dropped to 12th, guaranteeing himself a long afternoon.

Laguna Phuket

His Red Bull Racing car was an effective machine, allowing him to make good progress early, and by lap 11 he was back up to seventh place, aided by a safety car caused by a mutually destructive crash between Zhou Guanyu and Nicholas Latifi.

A strategy gamble to stay out on wet-weather tyres rather than pit for slicks just past half-distance then paid significant dividends for the Dutchman, who locked in fifth and set his sights on a podium place.

But a massive lock-up while attempting to pass Lando Norris for fourth ‒ he suggested a visor tear-off had been caught in a rear brake duct ‒ forced him to pit again, dropping him into the clutches of Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton had had a similarly scrappy second half of the race after a mistake pursuing Sainz for third. The Briton had run too hot into turn 7 and broken his front wing, repairs for which put him back into the pack and in a late-race battle for eighth.

Verstappen harried the Mercedes driver for position for five laps until they caught Sebastian Vettel ahead. Hamilton attempted to get past, but moving offline he opened the door to a Verstappen pass around the outside, losing the position.

The Dutchman was then able to pick off Vettel for seventh as the time expired on the race to rescue six points.

He now leads Leclerc by 104 points and Perez by 106 points in the drivers standings. He must outscore them by eight and six points respectively to win the championship next weekend in Japan.

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished a superb fourth and fifth for McLaren. Norris jumped Fernando Alonso off the line, while Ricciardo had a great start from 16th, rising to 13th and then up to 10th before a pit stop behind the safety car rocketed him up the order.

It was a sensational result for the team to take fourth in the constructors standings from Alpine with a four-point advantage on a day the French team suffered a rare double engine failure.

Aston Martin also enjoyed an unexpectedly strong result, turning 12th and 14th on the grid into sixth and eighth at the flag by keeping out of trouble in the race of attrition.

The points haul moves the team from ninth to seventh in the constructors standings ahead of Haas and AlphaTauri.

Hamilton ended the evening ninth ahead of Pierre Gasly in 10th.

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