F1 Singapore Grand Prix: Sergio Perez holds of Charles Leclerc for the win

It took a bit longer for it to become official, but eventually Red Bull won the Singapore Grand Prix.

But it was Sergio Perez who took the checkered flag, and not his teammate Max Verstappen.

After rolling out second and taking the lead on the first lap of the Grand Prix, Perez ran perhaps the best race of his Formula 1 career, holding off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take the victory at Singapore. Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz joined the two on the podium, placing third.

The start of the Grand Prix was delayed due to weather. A storm system moved through the area on Sunday night, bringing heavy rains and creating standing water on the track. As the teams waited for the rain to clear, they found ways to entertain themselves on pit lane, with some posting videos of the weather conditions:

Or whatever this is:

Even social media accounts got in on the antics. After the F1 social media account posted this photo of Mercedes Safety Car:

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas team posted this revised version, inserting their driver into the shot, riding the waves:

Eventually, the cars took to the track for pre-race procedures, but drivers found it difficult at times to stay in control. Verstappen had a few incidents during the pre-race procedures:

When the race finally got underway, drivers were hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix, which also started under wet conditions and was the first time a night-time Grand Prix was held in wet conditions in F1 history. That night, Verstappen was involved in a significant collision with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikköen on the lead lap.

On this night, there would be no such big early collision, as the race started off relatively clean. Perez got out to a great start and took the lead on the opening lap, trailed by Leclerc and Ferrari’s Sainz. Verstappen, who rolled out in eighth position, was soon locked in a battle to improve his position with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Vettel.

An incident on lap seven saw Nicholas Latifi of Williams cut down a tire and squeeze into Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo, knocking Zhou out of the race:

Latifi was able to get his car back into the pits, but the incident ended his night as well.

Verstappen was able to make up some ground on Lap 11, getting past both Vettel and then Gasly with a pair of impressive inside moves working through the turns, propelling the Red Bull driver into seventh position:

As Verstappen battled for positioning, Perez and Leclerc were locked in a battle of their own for the top spot. The Red Bull driver maintained his lead through the first 20 laps and consistently posted some of the fastest times on each lap. But Leclerc remained close behind, staying within striking distance of Perez.

The next incident came on Lap 21 as Fernando Alonso, starting his 350th Grand Prix, experienced engine trouble and a loss of power, knocking him out of the race. The ensuing caution touched off a pair of pit stops, with Mercedes’ George Russell becoming the first driver to change to a slick, medium tire. The Mercedes driver struggled to maintain control when coming back onto the track, calling into question the decision to change tire compounds given the track conditions:

Ahead, Russell’s Mercedes teammate was growing frustrated. Running in fourth place, Hamilton was behind held back as Sainz, running in forth place, was posting slow lap times but making it difficult for Hamilton to pass and join the chase for the lead. The Mercedes driver made his frustrations known to his team:

He would eventually lose his patience.

On Lap 34, Hamilton drove a bit too hard into a turn and locked up his tires, driving straight into the wall in Turn 7. He was able to quickly recover and pull back out onto the track, having lost just a single position:

Hamilton’s accident touched off even more pit stops, and with Russell starting to show signs of life on his medium compound tires, other teams made similar decisions, with Vettel, Leclerc and Hamilton among those making the change.

Hamilton also needed a new front wing thanks to his solo crash into the wall.

As the pit stops were winding down, Yuki Tsunoda lost control heading into Turn 10, and the crash called for the full safety car to take to the track, providing a window for teams like Russell to make another pit stop. Also coming in were the McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, with Ricciardo making the decision to change to soft tires.

The race restarted with Perez still in the lead, followed by the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Sainz. Verstappen tried to make an aggressive move early in the first lap under green, dipping to his left to pass, but violently locked up his brakes trying to make the next turn, sliding off the track. Verstappen came back into the race in eighth place, but came into the box for a stop, dropping him into last place.

Verstappen rolled off of pit lane with soft tires.

Beyond Verstappen’s woes, word came from race officials that Perez would be investigated for a Safety Car Infringement, and Red Bull fans would await word on the investigation.

Perez had more pressing issues, because his rear-view mirrors were filled with a Ferrari. Perez was doing his best to hold off Leclerc, as the Ferrari driver was running strong. Complicating matters for the Red Bull driver was his report to his team that he was having some issues with his engine:

At this point in the race, officials made the decision to enable DRS, or the Drag Reduction System. A dry running line had finally appeared on the track, leading to the call from officials. With the track conditions nearing normal after the wet start, officials made the call to allow drivers within a second of the car in front of them to open a flap in their rear wing, increasing their chances to pass and overtake cars:

While Leclerc was continually faster than Perez in the first and third sectors of the track, Perez remained much, much faster than his Ferrari rival in the middle sector of the track on each lap, allowing him to maintain his short lead over Leclerc as the two-hour time limit loomed.

Then word came from the officials that Perez’s Safety Car Infringement would be investigated after the race:

That put the pressure on the Red Bull driver to extend his lead, to protect himself after the finish from any potential five-second penalty applied for the violation. Perez pressed on, as did his Red Bull teammate. After restarting in last place, Verstappen worked his way from the back of the field on soft tires, moving up to ninth position with under ten minutes remaining in the race.

A few places behind them, another duel was underway between Vettel, Hamilton and Verstappen for seventh position. With both Hamilton and Verstappen able to rely on DRS as the three drivers jockeyed for position, it seemed as if Vettel would be unable to hold on for seventh place.

On Lap 57, the situation changed for those three. Through Turns 8 and 9, Hamilton tried to make his move to pass Vettel, but struggled to get the braking right, opening the door for Verstappen to pounce, as the Red Bull driver slid in front of Hamilton and into eighth place as the race entered the final minutes.

Vettel was then next in sight for Verstappen. On the final lap, the 58th of the race, despite the Aston Martin driver doing everything he could to hold off Verstappen, the Red Bull driver eventually overtook him for seventh position.

Up front, Perez took the checkered flag in what analysts immediately called the best-ever victory of his F1 career. Perez finished more than five seconds ahead of Leclerc, perhaps giving him the cushion he would need as he awaited word from race officials on his potential Safety Car Infringement penalty.

Here was the unofficial top ten as the cars came to the line:

The results were still unofficial as Perez met with race officials and awaited a decision on any potential penalty. Before the meeting, however, the driver addressed the race in a trackside interview:

While the race remains under investigation, Perez, Leclerc and Sainz took to the podium for the post-race celebration.

Here are the final results:

The performances from Leclerc and Perez keep their title hopes alive, as Verstappen could not get the series of results he needed to clinch his second-straight F1 championship. As the circuit heads to Japan for the Japanese Grand Prix, Verstappen is still in the driver’s seat for the championship.

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