SINGAPORE (AP) — Sergio Perez emerged victorious from a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, postponing teammate Max Verstappen’s celebration of a second Formula One title.
It was the second victory for the Mexican driver this year and the fourth of his career in F1. Pérez crossed the finish line with a margin of 7.6 seconds over Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Carlos Sainz Jr. entered third with the other Ferrari.
“Checo” Pérez was investigated for a possible infraction during the entry of the safety car. This could mean a five-second penalty, which the difference against Leclerc would cover.
“The truth is that it was my best performance. I controlled the race,” said Perez, who won the Monaco GP in May. “The last few laps were so intense that I didn’t feel it in the car. But when I came out I felt tired. I left everything for the victory.”
Verstappen emulated his worst result of the season, a seventh place at the British Grand Prix in July. He also retired in two of the first three races.
The Dutchman had won all five races and needed to take victory and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for the second season in a row. He will be able to try again next weekend at the Japanese GP.
Red Bull’s engine is made by Japanese automaker Honda.
“It would be nice for Maxi and the team to win it in Japan, because it is the home of Honda,” Pérez said before stepping onto the podium.
Verstappen leads the championship with a difference of 104 points over Leclerc and 106 ahead of Pérez, unless the distribution of points is not affected by the investigation into the Mexican for not keeping his distance from the safety car.
“I have no idea,” Perez said. “They told me to increase the gap and that’s what I did.”
Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, caused by Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri colliding on lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’s McLaren, the champion locked his front tires and had to pit.
Leclerc started on pole while Verstappen was relegated to eighth place due to a team error in qualifying.
The start of the race was delayed a little over an hour, starting at 9:05 pm, in order to remove water from the track at the Marina Bay Circuit after heavy rain. The drivers had to finish the race within a two-hour lead.
The treacherous conditions prompted the safety car to be brought in on three occasions and the use of DRS was allowed in the last half hour.
Pérez had an excellent start to leave Leclerc behind.
“It was your best race, you were sensational,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner proclaimed on team radio.
Lewis Hamilton made a rare mistake on lap 33, driving his Mercedes into a barrier. After a while, the pilots who were in front changed tires. The safety car reappeared after Tsunoda’s mistake.
After a disappointing start to the race, Verstappen managed to pass Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin near the end.
Norris entered fourth ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, in a positive day at McLaren in the constructors’ championship. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) crossed the finish line ahead of Verstappen. Vettel, Hamilton and Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri rounded out the top ten.