Sergio Perez took his second win of the season for Red Bull after managing to take the lead at the start of the rain-delayed and curtailed Singapore Grand Prix from pole sitter Charles Leclerc, then successfully thwarting the Ferrari's attempts to strike back heading to the finish.
Leclerc's team mate Carlos Sainz survived early pressure from Lewis Hamilton to join them on the podium. Hamilton himself subsequently made a mistake and ended up ninth, two spots behind Max Verstappen who suffered a similar mishap in the treacherous wet/dry conditions.
McLaren's Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo picked up a very healthy P4 and P5,
after their Alpine rivals suffered a double DNF with engine failures for both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and both Williams drivers were also forced to retire.
The start of the race had been delayed by an hour because of a massive storm that drenched the circuit in the run-up, and a subsequent succession of virtual and full safety cars resulted in the race being time-capped to 59 laps.
Three years after the last Singapore Grand Prix took place before the onset of COVID, we had to wait an extra hour before the 2022 race finally got underway. That was because of a massive cloudburst that hit Marina Bay Street Circuit, leaving the track drenched. Once the rain finally abated the track workers were quick to get to work sweeping the puddles away, but some areas remained stubbornly wet in the high humidity conditions.
The teams did finally get their cars out on the grid without fear of seeing them float off down the main straight. Charles Leclerc was on pole for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez, while Lewis Hamilton was on the second row alongside Carlos Sainz. Noticeably out of place was Max Verstappen, who had been denied his last flying lap in qualifying over concerns about low fuel. And missing altogether was George Russell, who was at the end of pit lane after Mercedes decided on an overnight power unit change due to reliability concerns.
The race got underway with everyone starting on intermediate tyres (Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda alone on used sets, as AlphaTauri had run out of new ones). Even so, everyone was struggling for grip as the the lights went out: Perez got the best of it and went into the first corner ahead of Leclerc who had suffered wheel spin, while Sainz muscled Hamilton wide to take third place with the pair making slight contact in the process. Hamilton slotted back in behind Sainz in fourth followed by Lando Norris who had picked off Fernando Alonso, with Gasly in seventh ahead of Sebastian Vettel. However Verstappen had seemingly gone into anti-stall costing him multiple positions, and he had to dig deep to fend off Daniel Ricciardo. He then went side-by-side with Kevin Magnussen with whom there was contact, from which the Haas came off worst with damage to the front wing resulting in an black-and-orange flag summons to pit lane for repairs.
Despite a number of minor incidents, everyone survived the opening lap although Alex Albon briefly went off at turn 7 and thumped the barrier. He was able to collect himself and get back underway. Once things settled down, Verstappen was soon back on form and quickly picked off Lance Stroll to return to the top ten, and then immediately dispatched Tsunoda for ninth. At the front, his team mate Perez had pulled a second clear of Leclerc and the pair had started to drop Sainz, Hamilton and Norris.
Hamilton was complaining of a lack of grip on the inters - implying he had been overruled on wanting to start on the full wets - but it was still far too wet for slicks. "As you can tell, not drying up very quick," reported Norris just before the safety car was dispatched for an incident between Zhou Guanyu and Nicholas Latifi. It left the Alfa Romeo in the wall at turn 5 and the Williams limping back to pit lane with a puncture and terminal suspension damage. Replays showed that Latifi had cut across the front of Zhou, seemingly unaware that the Chinese driver was even there. He was handed a five place grid penalty for Japan for the mishap. There had also been contact between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, who had out-braked himself trying to overtake the Alfa and ended up running into his Mercedes predecessor.
No one took the opportunity to pit before the race resumed on lap 11. At the restart, Verstappen took immediate advantage to dive down the inside of Vettel at turn 5 to claim eighth, and moments later he also picked off Gasly at turn 13. There had been no change at the front, with Perez managing the restart perfectly to keep Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton, Norris and Alonso in his rear view mirrors. Perez and Leclerc were soon trading fastest laps, with DRS not currently a factor having being turned off for the wet conditions.
Verstappen's next target was two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who was making a record-breaking 350th race start in Formula 1. However the Red Bull didn't have the speed differential to press the attack and Alonso was in no mood to roll over. Now the focus turned to tyre wear: Norris was told "to make these inters last longer than everyone else's" but the Briton replied saying that his "tyres are becoming more slick". A dry line was appearing in places on the track, but overall it was still too wet for slicks according to Verstappen - although Sainz told the Ferrari pit wall that it would not be long as he struggled to stay ahead of Hamilton, while running a second a lap slower than the leaders.
Alonso's landmark outing came to an end with sudden engine failure on lap 22, requiring the Alpine to pull over at turn 10. That triggered a Virtual Safety Car with only Mercedes taking the opportunity too pit Russell to put him on medium tyres - which was immediately exposed as something of an error as he scrabbled to keep the W13 on the track on the cold compound even before the VSC ended. Russell's cry of "No grip!" over the team radio was a surprise to no one, but he gamely carried on in the hope that things would improve as the tyres heated up and the track continued to dry off and evolve. Provided he could survive long enough in the meantime, that is.
Albon was in the wars once more on lap 26 when he sailed off the track again, this time at turn 8. He was able to reverse out but left his front wing lodged in the barrier, necessitating another Virtual Safety Car while the marshals wrenched it free. Albon was forced to retire on pit lane, but no one else took the opportunity to make a stop. At the restart, Hamilton was still unable to find a way past Sainz despite having the fastest car - "I'm losing so much time behind this guy, he's really slow," he complained - and Verstappen was looking twitchy in sixth as he struggled to find a way past Norris.
The race was barely back underway before Esteban Ocon suffered a catastrophic engine failure in the second Alpine and came to a stop at turn 13 belching smoke and oil, forcing another VSC albeit after a long pause while race control made up their minds. Ferrari feinted at making a pit stop only to keep both their drivers out, and no one else was inclined to be any braver. Even Russell stayed out despite signalling that his move to mediums had been a mistake, costing him up to five seconds a lap at this point in the proceedings.
With Hamilton grumbling about being brake-tested by Sainz, the race resumed once more on lap 30. Verstappen made an audacious move on Norris down the straight that proved to be premature, forcing him to back off and cede the position back to the McLaren. "That was very dangerous," commented Norris after the Red Bull came close to making contact as it suddenly decelerated. Verstappen made another attempt on lap 33, only to lock up and have to slow down again.
He wasn't the only driver finding the situation frustrated: Hamilton made a lunge on Sainz into turn 7 only to run off and into the wall. He was lucky to avoid any major damage but had bent his front wing end-plate. For now, he was able to get back underway although he had dropped out of fourth to slot back in between Norris and Verstappen, who was less than happy to have another obstacle in his path.
There was no safety car this time, virtual or otherwise. Instead, the teams were alerted to the fact that Russell's pace had suddenly dramatically picked up - the crossover point between inters and slicks had arrived. Tsunoda, Gasly, Bottas and Magnussen reacted immediately; Leclerc was in on lap 35 for mediums, with Hamilton also in (for a new front wing as well as fresh tyres) which dropped him to P9. It proved to be a slow stop and out-lap for Leclerc who came back out in third behind Perez and Sainz. They pitted next time by, while Norris' decision to stay out allowed Red Bull to react by calling in Verstappen.
Right in the middle of all this controlled chaos, Tsunoda ran wide and into the barrier at turn 10. He was unable to get going again, and a full safety car was deployed for the second time tonight. It was good timing for McLaren who were now able to bring Norris and Ricciardo in; even Russell took the opportunity to return to pit lane for fresh slicks.
After a delay for repairs to the barriers, the race resumed on lap 40 with Perez back in the lead ahead of Leclerc and Sainz, and Norris now in fourth ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo had benefited the most, and was now sixth on softs ahead of Aston Martin pair Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel, with Hamilton ninth and Gasly holding the final points-paying position in tenth. Perez protected his lead, while Verstappen threw everything into attacking Norris - only to overcook it into turn 7, bottoming out and locking up as he flew off the track. He rejoined in eighth, just ahead of Hamilton, but radioed the Red Bull pit wall to tell them that he urgently needed to pit for fresh tyres - soft compound this time - dropping him out of the points entirely.
Red Bull also had worries with Perez. Already under investigation (after the race) for mishandling the safety car restart, and he was also reporting engine problems. It spurred Leclerc to pull within attack range just as DRS was enabled for the first time in the race. Perez had enough speed in reserve down the straights to stay ahead, but it was all becoming a real nail-biter. Further back Russell had limped home to pit lane after cutting into Mick Schumacher, with the Haas following him in for emergency service and fresh tyres before they both resumed a lap down.
Perez was struggling to stay in front amid multiple lock-ups, but Leclerc still found it impossible to take advantage - and then nearly found the wall himself on lap 49 as he pushed it to the limit and beyond. That dropped him out of DRS range, and time was running out to regroup with the clock ticking after the wet conditions and multiple interruptions pushed the race up against the two-hour time limit.
Perez was finally able to pull away to safety to claim his second win of the season, after a similarly rain-afflicted Monaco - subject to the results of that post-race investigation. Ferrari pair Leclerc and Sainz took the remaining podium places, while McLaren came away with fourth and fifth respectively for Norris and Ricciardo.
Aston Martin duo Stroll and Vettel also had a good night at the races, finishing in sixth and eighth respectively after Verstappen made a last second dash to pass Vettel at the line, having already managed to claw his way past Hamilton, Bottas and Magnussen in the closing laps following his wayward moment and extra pit stop. The final finishers - a lap down - were Schumacher and Russell, with Tsunoda, Ocon, Albon, Alonso, Latifi and Zhou all non-finishers.
The result means that Verstappen wasn't able to seal the 2022 world championship this week, while McLaren have moved back in front of Alpine in the constructors standings.
2022 Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing