Perez hails 'best performance' after storming to Singapore triumph

By Sports Desk October 02, 2022

Sergio Perez labelled the Singapore Grand Prix victory as his "best performance" after holding off Charles Leclerc on a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Ferrari driver Leclerc started on pole on Sunday ahead of Perez, who breezed into the lead at the first corner as Formula One racing returned to Singapore for the first time in three years.

The wet conditions that caused the race to be delayed by an hour were a problem throughout, with numerous safety cars deployed as five drivers failed to finish.

Perez held his nerve despite late pressure from Leclerc to claim his second victory of the season and fourth of his career to end Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen's five-race winning streak.

"It was certainly my best performance," Perez told Sky Sports after the conclusion. "I controlled the race.

"The last three laps were so intense – when I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything."

While Perez celebrated on the podium, stewards investigated a possible infringement behind the safety car – a misdemeanour that Ferrari deemed worthy of a 10-second time penalty.

"I have no idea what's going on, they just told me I was under investigation and to increase the gap," Perez added after finishing seven seconds ahead of Ferrari's Leclerc.

Leclerc's colleague Carlos Sainz settled for third after battling with Lewis Hamilton on the opening corner, with the Briton finishing in ninth after another frustrating outing.

"It was very tough out there," Sainz said. "I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn't challenge the top two guys.

"I had to settle for P3, but the good thing is I didn't do any mistakes and could bring the car home and be quick towards the end of the race. 

"It's a good result for the team in the Constructors' Championship."

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    The Red Bull driver, seeking a third consecutive title this season, was left stricken ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia and only just hauled himself together to be able to compete.

    In the end, he pulled out something special, finishing second after starting in 15th place on the grid, having dropped out in Q2 due to a mechanical failure.

    Verstappen also retained his place at the top of the drivers' season standings by recording the race's fastest lap right at the death, so he leads the way heading into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

    After competing in Melbourne, there will be a break before F1 resumes in Azerbaijan across the April 28-30 weekend, a gap that was created by the cancellation of a planned race in China.

    Three clear weeks without competition should allow Verstappen to get back on an even keel, although he signalled the worst of the illness has already passed.

    "I was not looking forward to the break, but then I got really ill and have just been struggling a bit since that time, especially last race out," Verstappen said.

    "So I think for me now these three weeks are just about getting back to full fitness, getting a full programme in."

    Reflecting on his tough experience prior to racing in Jeddah two weeks ago, Verstappen said: "At home I was really ill, I could barely just walk around. It felt like I was just missing a lung, and I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone.

    "Normally when you get sick like two, three days after, you’re normally all right – you can just do your workouts – but then when I jumped into the car in FP1, even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally."

    He added: "It definitely did affect me throughout the weekend, which I didn't like. It was one of the first races where I felt I was physically limited, and that's really frustrating when you're in the car.

    "Since then I've been trying to work on it, trying to improve it, and I do think it has improved a lot, so this weekend should be all right."

    Verstappen has yet to have a win at the Australian Grand Prix, with third place in 2019 being his best finish to date.

    The 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year Verstappen retired from the race at Albert Park as Charles Leclerc claimed a dominant victory for Ferrari.

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    Russell finished fourth in Jeddah, though he looked set to take third place when Fernando Alonso was penalised.

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    Seven-time Formula One world champion Hamilton seemed to suggest after the race that Russell made a fortunate choice when deciding to alter his set-up.

    Hamilton claimed that call would "more often than not" have been wrong. Russell, however, disagrees.

    Speaking to reporters ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Russell said: "I don't think there's any luck in it at all.

    "I think it's down to the preparation you put in before the event.

    "The changes we made overnight, I knew that was going to be the right direction with the work we did with the team. And I believed it was going to be better than the set-up that Lewis opted for.

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    Keen to avoid any animosity, Hamilton sought to clarify what he had meant in Jeddah.

    He said: "I want to reiterate how great a job George did.

    "I think the thing I was commenting on is that there's one specific thing that you can change in the suspension that you have to do over Friday night, and when you make that change, once you start P3, you can't change it for the rest of the weekend, so when you make that change, you're basically rolling the dice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

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  • Perez: Red Bull support my title challenge to Verstappen Perez: Red Bull support my title challenge to Verstappen

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    Red Bull have dominated the opening two rounds of the season, securing one-two finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Verstappen holding a narrow one-point lead over his team-mate courtesy of the fastest lap in Jeddah.

    Verstappen's push for the extra championship point last time out saw sparks flying at Red Bull, with Perez unhappy he was not given a similar message over team radio and ultimately not making a bid himself to set the fastest time.

    Suggestions that tempers are flaring in the paddock have been downplayed, however, and Mexican driver Perez feels he has support within the team to launch his own bid for the title.

    The season continues this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

    "When I first came to the team [ahead of the 2021 season], things were very different.  Basically, they were just going racing with two cars because they had to," Perez said, quoted by BBC Sport.

    "I can now say that I really feel part of the team, have my place and am well respected.

    "I really believe I have the team's full support, as much as Max does, and that I will have every opportunity to win the championship, as much as Max."

    While going wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen could lead to tensions over the course of the season, Perez feels the pair have the maturity to deal with any rivalry that could emerge on track.

    "I'm here to do the best possible thing for myself as well. To be honest, we have a lot more respect for each other than people might think," Perez said.

    "Inside the team, there is a very high level of respect with each other. I think we are both mature enough to know what's right and what's wrong and, as long as that keeps being the case, I don't expect anything to change."

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