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Verstappen title party on hold as Perez wins but under investigation

Verstappen title party on hold as Perez wins but under investigation

Verstappen title party on hold as Perez wins but under investigation

Verstappen title party on hold as Perez wins but under investigation

Max Verstappen will have to wait until next Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix to become F1 champion for a second time following another remarkable night race in Singapore won by Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

That victory, however, is under investigation for a safety car infringement - not keeping within 10 lengths - meaning the Mexican will have to wait to fully celebrate what he hopes will be the fourth of his F1 career.

As for Verstappen, he had to take the chequered flag at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and hope other results went his way to secure back-to-back titles at this venue.

Even before the race, Verstappen remarked his chances of doing so was "a long shot", and so it proved.

Verstappen was running as high as fifth following a second full safety car intervention, during which Perez is in the spotlight, with 33 minutes remaining as the event again ran to its full two-hour duration following a wet-track start.

But a rare error with a lock-up as he attempted to overtake McLaren's Lando Norris ended his hopes of a possible podium place alongside Perez and Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Instead, Verstappen had to settle for seventh, and now holds a 104-point lead over Leclerc and 106 to Perez, with 138 on the table from the five grands prix and the sprint in Brazil remaining.

If Verstappen wins in Japan and takes the point for the fastest lap, he will again be champion. Without the fastest lap, he will win the title if Leclerc and Perez are third or lower.

Beyond that, Verstappen has to finish eight points clear of Leclerc and six better off than Perez to be crowned for a second time.

Wet start led to lengthy delay

It was a race affected by a torrential downpour that started 80 minutes before it was due to officially commence and finally relented around 50 minutes later.

Despite exceptional drainage around the Singapore streets, and a team of marshals that worked feverishly to clear standing water, the FIA delayed the start by 65 minutes to 9.05pm local time.

By the time the five red lights disappeared to get the race underway, the entire field had elected to start on the intermediate tyres, despite the surface appearing slippy.

Remarkably, the opening exchanges were clean, with no safety car on the opening lap after three in the previous four races at this track.

Whilst second-on-the-grid Perez managed to surge past polesitter Leclerc on the run down to turn one, with Sainz doing likewise on Hamilton from their second-row starts, Verstappen suffered a torrid time.

The Dutch driver got bogged down off the line. From eighth, he dropped to 12th and was forced to cut across the inside of turn one, whilst he was also involved in an opening-lap skirmish with Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

After eventually clearing Magnussen and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll on lap two, and Yuki Tsunoda in his AlphaTauri on the following lap, Verstappen was then blocked by four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin.

Singapore GP safety car record continues as Alonso exits early

Four laps later, and continuing its remarkable record of making an appearance in all 13 races at this circuit, the safety car was summoned into action as Nicholas Latifi in his Williams clattered into Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu, earning a five-place penalty for the race at Suzuka.

The Chinese rookie was forced into immediate retirement due to a broken front-right wishbone, and although Latifi managed to return to the pits, the team opted to end his race.

After three laps of safety car running, once it exited the scene, Verstappen then made short work of Vettel and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly to move up to seventh.

Verstappen's next roadblock was Alpine's Fernando Alonso, the 41-year-old setting a new record by racing in his 350th grand prix, surpassing the previous best set by Kimi Raikkonen.

Alonso's hopes of marking the occasion with a strong finish, however, evaporated on lap 20 when he suffered an engine issue that forced him to park up just off track but sparking a virtual safety car, promoting Verstappen to sixth.

At that stage, as conditions improved, it became a question of who would blink first in opting to switch to slick tyres, with the drivers seeking the wet patches on the track to keep their intermediate rubber cool.

With the VSC in operation, Mercedes brought in George Russell, who had started from the pit lane after taking on a new power unit and was running in a lowly 16th behind Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas.

In taking on the medium compound, Russell quickly radioed to say there was "no grip".

Albon, Ocon and Tsunoda join retirees, Hamilton hits a wall

On lap 26, the FIA called a second VSC as Williams' Alex Albon struck a wall at turn eight, losing his front wing, and like team-mate Latifi before him, although he made it back to the garage, his race was also run.

Moments later, it also became a double retirement for Alpine as Esteban Ocon's A522 had its own engine failure that led to a third VSC, becoming the fifth driver out of the race as it hit the one-hour halfway mark.

It was almost six on lap 33, with Hamilton's frustration building in being stuck behind Sainz saw him lose concentration and run into a TecPro barrier, damaging his front wing, later apologising to the team and conceding he had "f***ed up".

From fourth, Hamilton managed to reverse and return to the track in between the fifth-place battle involving Norris and Verstappen.

With Verstappen complaining about Hamilton's left-front endplate falling off, the seven-time champion pitted for a new front wing and slick tyres as the crossover point to switch to the dry rubber had finally arrived.

A flurry of stops occurred, and when Tsunoda buried his nose into a TecPro on lap 36 to become the sixth retiree, leading to a second full safety car, it allowed McLaren duo Norris and Daniel Ricciardo a free stop, the latter taking on softs.

Once the safety car disappeared, with 34 minutes remaining, the running order was Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Stroll, Vettel and Hamilton.

Verstappen drops to last with rare error

On the first lap after the safety car, Verstappen went for a move on Norris into the Anderson Bridge but severely locked up into the run-off area, badly flat-spotting his tyres, necessitating the need for another stop for fresh rubber, dropping him to 14th.

That was swiftly 12th as Russell and Haas' Mick Schumacher banged wheels as the former attempted to overtake the latter into the first corner, leading to punctures for both.

With Verstappen taking on soft tyres, he managed to surge his way up to seventh by the chequered flag, while Perez and Leclerc battled for the lead, particularly once DRS was activated with 20 minutes remaining.

Perez eventually managed to break away from Leclerc, particularly once he was informed of the safety car infringement, leading to him finishing a crucial 7.334secs ahead, aware if he is handed a five-second time penalty he would still be the winner.

Behind the podium trio, Norris and Ricciardo finished fourth and fifth, picking up vital points for McLaren in its battle for fourth in the constructors' championship with Alpine.

Stroll and Vettel finished either side of Verstappen in sixth and eighth, with Hamilton ninth after a late failed move on Vettel allowed Verstappen a pass, with Gasly picking up the final point for 10th.

There were four other finishers - Bottas, Magnussen, Schumacher and Russell.

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