Leclerc Narrowly Keeps Second Place in the Drivers Championship in Singapore
There was no shortage of drama in the Singapore Grand Prix which was where the current world champion Verstappen would try to snatch his next world championship.
If only Charles Leclerc could convert his pole achievements into top of the podium results; it would then be he leading Verstappen in the Drivers Championship.
Almost predictably Charles won pole again in Singapore after an exciting wet-dry shoot-out with Perez who had to make do with second place on the grid and Sainz lining up in third position at the start.
The race wouldn’t finish that way because of the unpredictable weather and the all too often tyre performance factor. How often have we seen tyres make all the difference in Grand Prix championships.
There had been a worrisome clutch of grey clouds hovering over Marina Bay and they unleashed a torrent of monsoon showers which meant the start of the Singapore Grand Prix would be delayed by just over an hour.
And the wet conditions took their toll as one after one incidents piled up. Tsunoda, Ocon, Albon, Alonso, Latifiand Zhou were the six retiring victims from what turned out to be a merciless attritional Singapore Grand Prix.
Monegasque ace Leclerc caught a bit of wheel-spin at the start. So Perez got the advantage jumping Leclerc for the lead while Hamilton went wide avoiding Sainz and fell to fourth. Spray and sparks everywhere . Verstappen saw his dream of wrapping up the Championship disappear as anti-stall saw him fall to 12th.
By Lap 5, Leclerc was stalking Perez doing his utmost to regain the lead, with Hamilton slowly falling out of range of Sainz.
After that with all the incidents it was “musical safety cars” on Lap 10, Lap 28 and Lap 36 that would dominate the race as the track refused to dry out fast enough. That was good news for the laggards including Verstappen who were far behind Perez and LeClerc as they got the opportunity to bunch up again.
On Lap 20 Leclerc was 2 seconds behind Perez. His chance came on Lap 35 when he pitted but with his stop lasting 5.3s the Monegasque blew that opportunity with a slow out-lap. When Perez pitted on the following lap , he emerged over six seconds in the lead.
Leclerc Closes in on Perez and then ….?!
As time on the clocked ticked away Perez’ Red Bull was being continuously hassled by Leclerc’s Ferrari for the lead … the lead of 6 seconds disappearing. The Red Bull driver had temporary difficulty with the engine’s “driveability” just before DRS was enabled with 26 minutes remaining, on Lap 43.
Leclerc and Perez, closely matched, pushed the limits thereafter in a scintillating chase for the lead.
Leclerc continued to press Perez hard for several laps once DRS had been activated, and even was close to attempt a pass at one point.
But the dampness in the air meant the Monegasque couldn’t go for broke. In the “dirty air”, the slightest mistake costs big time.
So Charles kept as close as possible hoping to overtake on the straight. He didn’t want to take the risk of attacking on a bend and ending up one of the many victims in the race.
And in the end it was the weather and tyres that denied LeClerc.
As the track and air dried
Leclerc pointed out that once Perez had got in clear air, then his tyres coming alive gave him a big edge.
Leclerc was quite surprised. As soon as he lost the DRS, Perez’ tyres started to work properly and Ferrari could just not keep up to the checkered flag, trailing by more than 6 seconds again.
Perez had pushed to the limit to cover off any potential post-race penalty because he had breached the safety car rules.
His upturn in pace had proved critical as he was indeed later handed a five-second penalty for dropping more than 10 car lengths behind the safety car. Had he not reached the checkered flag with a lead of over five seconds LeClerc would have claimed the win.
Nevertheless the Monegssque’s performance was good enough to keep him in second place in the DriversChampionship.
Perez remains third in the F1 drivers’ standings, two points behind Leclerc, and 106 points behind championship leader Max Verstappen who missed out on his first chance to seal the world title finishing seventh.
Suzuka hosts the next round of the World Championship where Max Verstappen will do his utmost to secure his second drivers’ title in the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, on October 07-09.