Max Verstappen did not use his first chance for the title on the hot stormy night in Singapore, but despite a messed-up race he can become Formula 1 world champion for the second time in a week.
After a violent thunderstorm, the Dutchman finished seventh after five wins in a row on Sunday and had no chance when his Mexican Red Bull colleague Sergio Perez triumphed. Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz secured second and third place.
"It was definitely my best performance. The last few laps were really intense. I didn't feel it that much in the car, but when I got out of the car I realized how hard I was pushing," said the 32-year-old old Perez. Leclerc said: "I pushed, but after the bad start it was just difficult. I had a bit of spinning tires. Physically it was difficult."
In the overall standings, 25-year-old Verstappen (341 points) is still comfortably ahead of Leclerc (237) after 17 of 22 races. The successful title defense could make Verstappen perfect next Sunday in Suzuka. If the leader has a lead of 112 points after the Japanese Grand Prix, the World Championship trophy cannot be taken away from him with four more races to go.
Sebastian Vettel steered his Aston Martin into eighth place without any major incidents and secured the points he had hoped for. Mick Schumacher finished 13th in the Haas racing car under floodlights and was again empty-handed as penultimate.
It was only more than an hour late that we started on the still very wet track. Heavy rain had caused a delay, at times it had poured so heavily that a normal race was no longer an option. However, when the Grand Prix was released after a significant improvement, Leclerc quickly lost his first place on the grid. Perez got away best and took the lead. Verstappen, on the other hand, started cautiously and fell back from eighth to twelve. In qualifying on Saturday, his team had messed up and not fueled enough. That's why he had to abort one last fast lap angrily.
Overtaking is challenging in Singapore's narrow concrete canal. Especially if it is also wet. Nevertheless, Verstappen struggled through the field bit by bit and was already ninth after five laps. Vettel, the record winner on the Asian circuit with five victories, quickly moved up from 14th to eighth. The last time he competed on the city circuit, which he particularly likes, was before he retired in November.
The marshals had made a makeshift attempt to free the runway from the water with brooms, but that didn't work everywhere. Even though it had stopped raining long before the start of the race, the conditions remained difficult. "I don't think it dries very quickly," radioed McLaren driver Lando Norris to the pits early. At the top, Perez didn't mind, pursued by Leclerc, the duo pulled away by more than seven seconds. Verstappen was already almost 30 seconds behind when the safety car had to go out for the first time.
Williams driver Nicholas Latifi had overlooked Guanyu Zhou in the Alfa Romeo and thus caused the Chinese to end prematurely. That was good for Verstappen, who was able to work his way forward more easily after the race was restarted. First the defending champion grabbed Vettel, then Pierre Gasly - and was already seventh. However, it was not so easy for him to get past the former Spanish world champion Fernando Alonso, who in his 350th Grand Prix became the driver with the most Formula 1 race starts. The problem was only solved when Alonso's engine went on strike and the 41-year-old retired.
No race flow
Departures into the barriers by Alexander Albon and Esteban Ocon brought further delays, so there was hardly any real flow of the race. Record world champion Lewis Hamilton also came off the course in fourth place and suddenly found himself directly in front of Verstappen with a defective front wing. Ferrari risked a lot when Leclerc was first in the lead group to switch to medium dry tires after 35 laps, followed shortly afterwards by Perez and Verstappen.
With the new tires, the Grand Prix would have been almost over for Verstappen. He, too, slid off the track at high speed and ruined his tires in the process. "I have to pit," he radioed - and fell back to 13th place. Teammate Perez had to defend himself against the combative Leclerc and was successful until the end, Verstappen finally just made it into the points. An investigation against Perez was announced shortly before the end because he could have violated the safety car rules. There should only be a result after the race.