Can Max Verstappen Clinch The Driver’s Championship?
The Singapore Grand Prix in 2022 promised to be an interesting race with championship implications to be decided on the notorious Marina Bay Circuit. Max Verstappen had a mathematical chance of clinching his second straight world title if he could win the race and his closest rivals finished low in the points. Verstappen competitors are not in any rush to hand Red Bull and their Dutch driver the championship and fought fiercely against him the entire weekend.
The Singapore Grand Prix had not taken place since 2019 due to the covid-19 pandemic and in 2022 Marina Bay welcomed over three hundred thousand fans over the weekend. The Marina Bay Circuit is one of the most difficult and longest tracks in F1 that meanders through the city streets under the night sky. Unfortunately, the stars and moon were well hidden by clouds and heavy rain which ultimately proved to be a determining factor in the outcome of the race.
A rain-soaked track awaited Formula 1 during qualifying at the Singapore Grand Prix making the already unforgiving Marina Bay Circuit even more daunting. Drivers would need to keep their wits sharp and show courage heading into every corner due to harsh weather conditions. If Formula 1 awarded points for winning the pole position Ferrari would be in a much better position for the driver’s and constructor’s championships.
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc claimed their ninth pole position of the season with a stellar driver from the Monegasque. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez claimed second place on the grid losing pole position by .022 seconds which is faster than the blink of an eye. Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton also had an impressive final lap landing them in third place and in prime position to attack for the lead of the race.
Max Verstappen’s luck was not in his favor because on his final qualifying lap which seemed destined to become the fastest lap of the day, Verstappen was forced to abandon the lap to conserve fuel. Red Bull had made an error in their calculations and left Verstappen with the possibility of not having enough fuel for a race official to gather a sample from which would have resulted in penalties. Rather than the start, the race at the back of the grid Verstappen had to settle for eight places. Could Verstappen climb up the grid like he has all seasons?
Heavy rain pounded Marina Bay on race day after serious contemplation by the race director and his stewards the Grand Prix was delayed by over an hour hoping the rain would subside. The rain eventually slowed, and track marshals removed as much standing water as possible from the circuit’s surface creating a safer environment to race on.
Sebastien Vettel was the last driver to win at Marina in 2019 driving for Ferrari and is also the most successful driver in Singapore with five wins. Fernando Alonso was also starting his incredible three hundred-and-fiftieth F1 Grand Prix, which adds to his growing record for most races.
Under light rain, the teams took their formation lap and lined up for the start of the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix. The lights went out and it seemed that Leclerc had a small advantage over Perez only to slightly spin the tires of his Ferrari allowing the Red Bull of Perez to blow past him for the lead. Perez took over the lead of the race with Leclerc struggling to maintain a reasonable gap between the two. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr who started in fourth got the better of Hamilton taking third place and surviving the light bumping between the two drivers.
Verstappen had a terrible start nearly stalling his engine fell down the field from P8 to P12 in a flash while veteran Vettel and his Aston Martin jumped from P14 to P9. There were no crashes or major incidents on the first lap of the race that featured the entire field of drivers using intermediate tires on a slowly drying track.
Verstappen rebounded from his poor start and began slicing up the ranks until he had to work hard to overtake Vettel who knew how to position himself on the track. Verstappen eventually passed the German and found himself in ninth place.
The first safety car of the race was needed eight laps into the race when Williams’ Nicolas Latiffi forced Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu into the wall taking both drivers out of the race. The green flags were waved by lap 10 without Leclerc adding dangerous pressure on Perez who continued to maintain his lead under control. On lap 21 Alonso’s 350th race ended short of the finish when his Alpine’s engine bid adieu forcing the Spaniard to pull over and trigger a Virtual Safety Car.
It was not long for the second VSC to be called into action when on Lap 26 Williams’ Alexander Albon slammed into a wall after under braking and heading into a corner. Two laps later a third VSC was needed when Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was forced to pull over with the team’s second engine failure of the day.
On lap 30 the race restarted cleanly without any incidents until lap 33 when Hamilton crashed into the wall but did not need to abandon his race. Hamilton lost his chance at a podium due to his error. Hamilton then found himself in fifth place battling Vettel and Verstappen who put on quite a battle between the world champions.
By the time teams took their first pit stop teams had elected to go with medium tires because of the much dryer track. Ferrari attempted to undercut Perez by pitting first but Red Bull had a much better pitstop and the lead Perez had built was enough for him to hold on to the lead of the race.
On Lap 37 Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was forced out of the race causing another safety car to come out onto the track and by this point, counting laps was no longer necessary. The Grand Prix was not going to complete the sixty-one laps due t time constraints.
Once the race restarted drivers had 34 minutes to fight for the best possible finish on the gird. Leclerc hunted down Perez and made multiple attempts at overtaking the Mexican but never could cut the distance enough between the two. Perez held on to his lead and even pulled away creating a comfortable cushion ahead of Leclerc.
The F1 stewards warned red bull that they would investigate Perez for possible Safety car Infringement claiming Perez did not follow the safety car close enough to exceed ten car lengths. Perez was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Perez’s day could not have gone any better driving a masterful race with zero errors and winning the second race of the season.
Perez’s win brings him within striking range of Leclerc for second place in the driver’s championship with only two points separating the two rivals. Ferrari could not catch Perez but could be proud of owning the rest of the podium with Leclerc in second place and Sainz in third. Not since the Miami Grand Prix that two Ferrari drivers shared the podium.
REST OF THE PACK
McLaren had a solid race finishing in fourth place with Lando Norris and fifth with Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren scored valuable points in their battle with Alpine for fourth place in the driver’s championship. McLaren now leads Alpine by four points. Aston Martin was proud to have both their drivers in the points with Lance Stroll in 6th and Vettel in eighth place. Verstappen finished in seventh while Hamilton finished in ninth followed by Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in 10th.
Verstappen will have to wait one more week for another chance to clinch the championship at the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka International Racing Circuit. Ferrari who still has a chance will need more than a couple of lucky breaks to stop Verstappen, but one can be assured they will not go out without a fight. Aside from the championships the other teams and drivers will be looking to finish in the highest positions possible which will create the perfect conditions for an exciting race.
2022 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX FINAL STANDINGS
|1||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL|
|3||CARLOS SAINZ JR||SPAIN||FERRARI|
|6||LANCE STROLL||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|
|7||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL|
|8||SEBASTIEN VETTEL||GERMANY||ASTON MARTIN|
|10||PIERRE GASLY||FRANCE||ALPHA TAURI|
|11||VALTERRI BOTTAS||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|RETIRED||YUKI TSUNODA-LAP 34||JAPAN||ALPHA TAURI|
|RETIRED||ESTEBAN OCON-LAP 26||FRANCE||ALPINE|
|RETIRED||ALEXANDER ALBON-LAP 25||THAILAND||WILLIAMS|
|RETIRED||FERNANDO ALONSO-LAP 20||SPAIN||ALPINE|
|RETIRED||NICHOLAS LATIFFI-LAP 7||CANADA||WILLIAMS|
|RETIRED||ZHOU GUANYU-LAP 6||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|