SINGAPORE (AP)Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.
Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.
Perez was being investigated for a potential safety car infringement. It could mean a time penalty of five seconds, in which case the Mexican driver’s lead over Leclerc covered him.
Verstappen’s equal-lowest position this year matches his seventh at the British GP in July. He also had two retirements in the first three races.
Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.
Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.
Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.
The race start was delayed from 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) to 9:05 p.m. (1305 GMT) local time to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window.
Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.
Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.
Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.
With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.
Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.
Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.
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