SINGAPORE - Fireworks lit up the sky at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday as the cool blue, yellow and red livery of the Red Bull RB18 zoomed past the finish line at the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
The team’s welcome return to the top of the podium in Singapore after nine years was applauded by fans around the circuit, even if it was not the Red Bull winner that everyone had expected.
Instead it was Sergio Perez who claimed the Singapore chequered flag for the first time after a rain-hit chaotic race in what he deemed as the best race of his life.
The Mexican celebrated his second race win this season by pumping his fist in the air before hugging his teammates. But he was made to wait for over an hour before the victory was confirmed after an investigation was launched for a safety car infringement. He was eventually cleared by the race stewards.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished second and third respectively to complete the podium. Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen, who started the race eighth, finished seventh.
Perez, who now has four F1 wins, said: “It was certainly my best performance, I controlled the race. The last few laps were so intense. I gave it everything for the win today.”
Starting on the front row behind pole sitter Leclerc, Perez overtook the Monegasque soon after lights out and led from start to finish, taking the chequered flag ahead of the Ferrari driver by 7.5 seconds.
It was the Mexican’s first victory in Singapore, making him the fifth F1 winner here after Nico Rosberg (2016), Fernando Alonso (2008, 2010), Lewis Hamilton (2009, 2014, 2017, 2018) and Sebastian Vettel (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019). His last race win was in Monaco in May.
The result also means that Perez has won in all three street circuits on the calendar – Baku (2021), Monaco (2022) and Singapore.
Calling it the “best drive of his career”, Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports: “Tricky conditions, he converted the start, he got himself settled into the race, he looked after the intermediate tyres. He was always in control, super cool.
“That’s world class, it’s right up there, for sure his best victory, it surpasses his Monaco victory. He’s gone out, he’s delivered and I’m just super proud of him.”
While there was joy for Perez on Sunday, there was only disappointment for Leclerc.
It was the seventh time this season that the Monegasque has failed to convert pole position into a win, and the second time he was the bridesmaid in Singapore.
He said: “I pushed all the way, but the bad start put us on the back foot.
“It was a difficult race – a good night’s sleep now, and we’ll get ready for Japan (next weekend).”
For points leader Verstappen, Suzuka is also where the Dutchman will revive his hunt for his second world title.
He can count on the backing of teammate Perez, who said it would be a special result for the team and their engine partner Honda.
But on Sunday, it was Perez who partied the night away after emerging victorious in an incident-filled race which saw a number of safety car periods as six drivers – Alonso, who made a record 350th race start, Esteban Ocon (both Alpine), Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi (both Williams) – retired during the race.
Spectators were left waiting for over an hour after the start of the night race was delayed owing to heavy rain. It was originally due to start at 8pm but eventually flagged off after 9.05pm.
The race did not run to its full 61 laps on Sunday as the maximum duration for an F1 race is two hours and a completed full race would have crossed that threshold.
Despite the inclement weather, Briton Erik Orrgarde still enjoyed his first time at a grand prix.
The 35-year-old, who has been living in Singapore since April 2021, said: “The sound of the engines was the most interesting bit because it’s so different in person.
“It was a bit of a walk but that’s to be expected and it was a good experience.”
Orrgarde was among the record 302,000 fans who turned out for the three-day event, with the previous high of 300,000 recorded in the inaugural race in 2008.
The Singapore Grand Prix made its return to Marina Bay for the first time since 2019 - it was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 owing to the pandemic - when Sebastian Vettel won the race with Ferrari. Vettel, who is retiring after his final season with Aston Martin, was also the last Red Bull driver to win here in 2013.
Besides the race, spectators were also treated to an entertainment line-up that included American rock band Green Day, Irish boy band Westlife and American electronic dance music star Marshmello.
More than 75 performances took place across eight stages at the Circuit Park in Marina Bay.
Singapore Grand Prix
1 Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 2hr 2min 15.238sec
2 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari +7.595sec
3 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Ferrari +15.305
4 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +26.133
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren +58.282
6 Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin +1:01.330
7 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +1:03.825
8 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin +1:05.032
9 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +1:06.515
10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri +1:14.576
14 George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes – Fastest lap
Red Bull 576pts