Singapore, Oct 2 (EFE).- Mexico’s Sergio “Checo” Perez, driving for Red Bull, on Sunday won the Singapore Grand Prix, the season’s 17th Formula One race, at the Marina Bay raceway, where Monaco’s Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc came in second and Spain’s Carlos Sainz, also with Ferrari, finished third.
“Checo,” 31, celebrated his fourth F1 victory – his second of this season, after winning in Monaco – in a contest where Leclerc had started in the coveted and advantageous pole position, while his fellow Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen of The Netherlands, ended in seventh place and failed to mathematically clinch this year’s title, although he’s far out in front of his nearest challenger in the rankings.
Spain’s other driver in the race, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, with Alpine, dropped out of the running in the 21st lap with engine difficulties.
Verstappen, who last Friday celebrated his 25th birthday, will have his second chance to secure the title next weekend at the Japan Grand Prix, to be held at the Suzuka circuit owned by Honda, which is in partnership with the Red Bull team.
After the race, Perez, said as soon as he got out of his vehicle that “Without a doubt, this has been the best race of (my) life.”
“It was tough, because the last laps were very intense, but I gave it everything and was able to win. I have no idea why they might want to investigate me,” he said, alluding to the fact that race organizers will investigate whether he performed an irregular maneuver during one of the times when the safety car was on the track, although any 5-second penalty that might be assessed against him would not deny him the win, given that he bested Leclerc by more than 7 seconds.
“They warned me of that possibility, that they were investigating us, and I pushed harder at the end of the race to increase (my) advantage and ensure the win,” Perez said.
Regarding the fact that his teammate Verstappen could not clinch the F1 title at Singapore, Perez said that “I think it’s even better for Max and for the team to win the title in Japan, above all for Honda.”
The heavy rain that fell in Singapore an hour before the scheduled start of the race initially forced an announced 30-minute delay, although ultimately things didn’t get under way until an hour and five minutes later than expected, after the rain let up.
Both Leclerc and Perez started in the front rank, having come in first and second in the qualification trials on Saturday, with Sainz and Alonso in the fourth and fifth slots, and seven-time world champ Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and driving for Mercedes in the sixth spot.
Verstappen started in eighth place, after on Saturday having to abort his last qualification run after his team erred in thinking that he had less fuel than expected.
The safety car came out on the eighth lap on Sunday, after an incident involving Canada’s Nicholas Latifi, with Williams, and Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou that knocked both vehicles out of the race.
In all, six drivers had to pull out of the contest, and both Verstappen and Hamilton made costly mistakes during the race.
Leclerc made a slow start and Perez went out in front and – with the Monaco driver pressing the Mexican hard – the pair pulled out ahead of the pack and essentially created a two-vehicle contest for the duration.
McLaren had a good day, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo coming in fourth and fifth, respectively, while Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished sixth for his best performance of the season to date.
Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 positions.