Sergio Perez drove a superb race to win for a second time in 2022 after winning a wet Singapore Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc.
But, it didn’t come without controversy as the stewards announced he was under investigation for a safety car infringement following the second restart.
Presumably, it was for not staying within 10 car lengths of the safety car which has been a rule in the sporting regulations for decades in Formula 1.
The incident was investigated after the race, and Perez was handed a five-second time penalty, a reprimand and two penalty points on his licence.
Crucially he kept the win, but the 32-year-old has been fortunate to keep his fourth victory in F1.
What did Perez do wrong?
On the first restart, after Nicholas Latifi came across Zhou Guanyu which put the Alfa Romeo driver out of the race, Perez let the safety car go very early, too early in fact.
You must stay within 10 car lengths of the safety car, or the driver in front, which the Mexican didn’t when he eased off and slowed right down after the Anderson Bridge at Turn 13.
This is allowed when the safety car lights are turned off, but this didn’t happen until Turn 15.
Although Perez caught the safety car a little on the straight between Turns 13 and 14, there was definitely a gap of more than 10 car lengths at one point.
Lewis Hamilton picked up on it straight away when he came on the team radio and claimed:”Lights haven’t gone out yet and he [Perez] has pulled a big gap.”
Perez does it again
On the second safety car restart, after Yuki Tsunoda‘s crash, Perez was warned by his engineer Hugh Bird: “Respect the distance with the safety car.”
But, again, he did the same thing by letting the safety car go too early at nearly the exact same point of the track.
Following this, the stewards announced Perez was under investigation.
What penalty should Perez have received?
At the 2010 Hungarian GP, Sebastian Vettel was penalised for not staying within 10 car lengths of teammate Mark Webber and was awarded a drive-through penalty as a result.
Penalties back then were a lot bigger as five and 10-second time penalties didn’t exist.
If the stewards being consistent, Perez should get two five-second penalties, for the two incidents that were seen on TV, which would give Leclerc the win.
Leclerc crossed the finish line 7.595 seconds behind the Red Bull driver after his medium tyres faded towards the end.
What did Red Bull say?
Perez said after the race he “has no idea what was going on, they just told me I was under investigation”.
Team principal Christian Horner is not concerned about a possible penalty.
“We can probably pull up over the last 10 years a whole bunch of precedents for this stuff – formation laps, safety car laps, drivers behind further down the queue,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“There are so many precedents for this. For us it’s a non-issue. They asked us to close up and we closed up immediately.”
Perez keeps Singapore GP win
Over two-and-a-half hours after the conclusion of the win, the FIA confirmed Perez kept his victory after awarding him a five-second time penalty, a reprimand and two penalty points on his licence.
The stewards gave him a reprimand for the first instance which we mentioned on Lap 10.
“When questioned during the hearing PER [Perez] said that the conditions were very wet and that it was very difficult to closely follow the safety car with little heat in his tyres and
brakes,” read the FIA statement.
“Although the track was wet in parts, we do not accept that the conditions were such
as to make it impossible or dangerous for PER to have maintained the required less
than 10 car length gap.
“Nevertheless, we took into account the wet conditions and the difficulties highlighted
by PER as mitigatory circumstances for this incident.”
For the second restart, the stewards revealed Perez was told to close the gap to the safety car by race director Eduardo Freitas between Turns 9 and 10, only for the Red Bull driver to be found guilty of the 10 car lengths rule again between Turns 13 and 14.
“Car 11 was the lead car on Lap 36 during the second safety car period in the race. It was admitted that while the lights of the safety car were still on, PER failed to keep within 10 car lengths of the safety car between Turn 13 and Turn 14,” said the stewards.
“This occurred notwithstanding the fact that the race director had issued a warning to the team that PER was not respecting the less than 10 car lengths regulation between Turns 9 and 10. The team passed that warning on to PER.
“We refer to Doc 56 by which we imposed a reprimand on PER for a breach of the same regulation during the first safety car deployment during the race. As this was the second breach of Article 55.10 by PER during the race and followed an express warning from the Race Director, we determined to impose a 5-second time penalty on PER.”