Overtakes were few and far between but the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix was incident-packed as Sergio Perez delivered one of the best performances of his career to fend off Charles Leclerc and take the chequered flag.
After the start was delayed by more than an hour due to torrential rain that covered the Marina Bay circuit, the Mexican jumped pole-sitter Leclerc off the line and brilliantly managed the multiple safety car periods and slowly drying surface to seal his fourth GP victory.
Behind, Carlos Sainz took the final podium spot, while McLaren and Aston Martin both enjoyed double-points finishes that could prove crucial come the end of the season. There’s plenty to unpack, so let’s look at where this year’s Singapore GP was won and lost.
Start crucial for Perez
Perez was disappointed to miss out on pole by just 0.022 seconds to Leclerc but admitted he was excited for the race and, specifically, the chance to leapfrog his rival at lights out. A cunning plan and one that came to fruition when the Ferrari driver got bogged down in the second phase after making a good initial launch.
In the end, that would prove key to victory as track position was once again king around the tight and twisty street circuit, but it was far from plain sailing.
Leclerc piled on the pressure at various points during the two-hour marathon, particularly after the second safety car restart when Perez complained of drivability issues, but the Mexican had an answer to everything that was thrown at him, eventually crossing the line in excess of seven seconds clear.
The only mistakes he made were behind the safety car, three times breaching the rule requiring the leader not to fall more than 10 car lengths behind. He can perhaps count himself lucky only to have been assessed a five-second penalty that confirmed his victory, but it shouldn’t detract from what was a near-faultless performance.
Messy Max misses chance to seal title
Such has been his dominance, Max Verstappen had a chance to wrap up the title in Singapore. Those victory celebrations have been put on hold after a rare off day for the Dutchman.
He was up against it after Red Bull’s fuelling mishap on Saturday, but come Sunday, he had no-one else to blame but himself.
A woeful start cost him four places but thanks to the superiority of the Red Bull and two safety cars, he had a chance to salvage a podium and perhaps even challenge for the win when the race restarted on Lap 40 following Yuki Tsunoda’s crash.
Sitting fifth, Verstappen was guilty of a lack of patience as he tried to force his way past Lando Norris into Turn 7, with the resultant lock-up leaving him no option but to pit for fresh softs. From right in the hunt to dead last.
He did battle back to seventh, but it was an unusually messy affair.
Day to forget for Mercedes
The reigning champions will not want to remember the 2022 edition of the Singapore GP in a hurry. A weekend that began with optimism for what was possible ended in misery as George Russell finished last of those that crossed the line, while Lewis Hamilton’s error into Turn 7 put paid to his podium hopes and relegated him to ninth.
In truth, it’s the latest disappointment in a season to forget for the Brackley-based outfit. Starting from the pitlane, Russell had little more than a puncher’s chance and failed to establish any momentum, running wide after a lunge on Valtteri Bottas and picking up a puncture after making contact with Mick Schumacher.
He acted as the guinea pig when he decided to take an early gamble onto slicks and that was his main contribution to the action this Sunday.
As for his teammate, he fared little better. A promising qualifying for Hamilton was undone with one lock-up while chasing Sainz. Whether it was frustration, a lapse of concentration or just a minor misjudgment, the seven-time world champion’s skirmish with the barrier took him out of podium contention.
It was the sort of mistake you don’t expect from a driver of Hamilton’s experience and wet-weather prowess, and given the speed at which he crashed, he was lucky just to escape with a broken wing.
After emerging from the pits in eight, he had plenty of time to undo some of the damage but failed to get past Sebastian Vettel and then lost out to Verstappen late on.
Norris and McLaren impress
It feels like Norris’s consistency goes unnoticed, and perhaps that’s a sign of how highly regarded he has become in the paddock. The young Brit has quickly developed into a points machine, capable of getting the most out of a car that is temperamental at best and fundamentally flawed at worst.
In Singapore, he lined up fifth after scraping through Q1 then barely put a tyre out of place come race day to finish fourth. Yes, he benefitted from the struggles of Hamilton and Verstappen, but he wasn’t in the right place at the right time by chance.
It really is high time the former world champions provide Norris with a machine to match his talent to unleash his true potential.
Daniel Ricciardo’s impressive drive from 16th to fifth capped off a momentous day for the team that saw them leapfrog Alpine after Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon both retired.
FIA under scrutiny
Sunday in Singapore sparked more questions about the FIA’s competency. Many were critical of the decision to delay the race by more than an hour, and even more were baffled by the retrospective penalty handed out to Perez.
By the time the race got underway, the track was dry enough for intermediate tyres, with a host of pundits and media members left wondering why the governing body seems so reluctant to have drivers start a race requiring full wets.
If that delay was excessive, the fiasco once the chequered flag had been waved felt like an eternity.
With a few laps to go, Red Bull and Perez were informed his potential safety car rule breach would be investigated after the race. That in itself drew the ire of most; that it then took more than two hours to finalise the result left many questioning the FIA’s suitability to govern the sport in its current guise.
As for the penalty itself, the explanation given to penalise Perez five seconds despite identifying three infringements was both contradictory and confusing.
Even more scrutiny will now be on how it will handle Red Bull‘s reported budget cap breach…