Max Verstappen bemoaned a "messy" performance at the Singapore Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton vowed to "live and learn" to recover from another disappointing showing.

Red Bull driver Verstappen had won five straight races and recorded 12 victories in 2022 to head into Sunday's race with a 116-point championship lead.

But the Dutchman struggled on a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit, finishing seventh as Charles Leclerc – who came in second behind Sergio Perez – cut Verstappen's advantage to 104 points.

Perez also trails his Red Bull team-mate by 106 points, though Verstappen could still secure the world title at the next race in Japan.

"It's not where we want to be," Verstappen told Sky Sports. "Yesterday, you put yourself in a spot like that and it can either work brilliantly and you can drive back to the front. Or you don't and it's very frustrating like we had [today].

"Seventh is better than eighth but it's not what I'm here for, not with a car like that and what we showed in practice. It's just incredibly messy."

Hamilton was another left frustrated as Formula One returned to Singapore for the first time in three years, slipping down to ninth after starting on the grid in third.

The seven-time world champion was initially edged out by Carlos Sainz on the first corner before crashing into the barriers later in the race when attempting to overtake the Ferrari driver.

"I think we started off with a pretty decent weekend and were just really, really unfortunate at the end," Hamilton added to Sky Sports.

"It was difficult to overtake and that lock-up into Turn 7 – when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.

"But you get back up again and you try. It wasn't the greatest day, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

"It all went out the window when I locked up, so my apologies to the team, but we live and learn, and I'll recover."

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."

Sergio Perez secured a fourth Formula One triumph and second of the season as he dominated at the Singapore Grand Prix, ending Max Verstappen's five-race winning streak.

Verstappen headed into Sunday's race with a 116-point lead at the top of the championship, aiming for a sixth straight win and 12th victory of 2022 as he edges towards the title.

Yet it was Red Bull team-mate Perez who added to his Monaco Grand Prix crown earlier in the year by winning at a soaked Marina Bay Street Circuit, where safety cars were a regular feature.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished in second and third respectively, with Verstappen's championship lead over the Monegasque driver dropping to 104 points after the Dutchman came in seventh.

After an hour-long delay, Perez raced out the blocks to take the lead from Leclerc, while Lewis Hamilton recovered after being forced off the track in a battle with Sainz.

A plethora of safety cars followed as Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi, Fernando Alonso, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon all retired inside the first 28 laps.

Perez continued to clock the fastest laps at the front before Hamilton – frustrated by Sainz in third – slammed into the barriers, with Lando Norris overtaking his fellow Briton.

Yuki Tsunoda's crash saw another safety car deployed before Verstappen swerved off the track to drop down to 12th, though he recovered to overtake Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas.

Perez's domination under the lights continued despite the push of Leclerc as the Red Bull driver claimed victory at the first F1 race in Singapore in three years.

'I TOLD YOU' – HAMILTON BEMOANS MERCEDES TYRE DECISION

Hamilton started the race in third but fell down a place after a first-corner battle with Sainz saw the seven-time world champion edged off the track.

"I told you about these tyres, in future you need to listen to me. No grip," Hamilton declared on the team radio soon after, lamenting Mercedes' late decision to operate on intermediate tyres.

It was not the first time Hamilton – who ended in ninth – has exchanged such words with his team, adding to a frustrating season that could end without a single victory for the first time in his career.

ALONSO DENIED HISTORY

Alpine's Alonso was aiming to surpass Kimi Raikkonen for the most Grand Prix finishes in history as the Spaniard looked to complete his 351st race.

But after stating "engine, engine" on the team radio, Alonso was forced to withdraw before the halfway point in Singapore, leaving him waiting to overtake Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton hopes he can belatedly celebrate his first win of 2022 at the Singapore Grand Prix, believing such a result would pay back Mercedes and his fans for their support in a difficult year.

Hamilton is facing the first winless season of his Formula One career after falling out of title contention.

The seven-time world champion has made six podiums this year but is still waiting to return to the top step with only six races remaining in the season.

Hamilton at least appears to have the pace in Singapore, where he qualified third-fastest on Saturday and revealed only "an oversteer moment" at Turn 16 denied him the chance to take pole ahead of Charles Leclerc.

It was still the Briton's best qualifying performance of the season – which came as a surprise to him – and he is looking to improve further on race day.

"It feels incredibly rewarding, I think, for everyone in the team [to get this performance]," Hamilton said in a press conference.

"We've really started with a real handful, a difficult deck of cards that we've created for ourselves, and [it has meant] reshuffling and lots and lots of work.

"Everyone [has been] staying really positive, or as positive as possible, and everyone is just being incredibly diligent and never giving up.

"So, it's been an inspiring year for me, witnessing what my team do and being a part of that, and yeah, I so badly want to [win].

"Naturally the will and desire to get a good result for them, to pay them back for all their great work is part of it.

"Also, my fans have been the most incredible this year, on and off track. And we couldn't have survived the year without them. So, I also want it for them.

"But I think we've got a great turnout here this weekend. And I hope that tomorrow we can give them a good show."

This weekend, in which Max Verstappen can clinch a second straight title, albeit the Dutchman's chances have been reduced by a frustrating qualifying session, has been overshadowed by speculation of a major salary cap breach.

Red Bull, Verstappen's team, have been forced to deny claims they are the guilty party, and Hamilton was not interested in engaging in gossip.

"I'm not really giving it much attention, to be honest," he said. "It's all whispers at the moment.

"I don't know enough about it to be able to make a sensible comment. I'm not thinking particularly anything.

"I'm proud of my team for the diligence that they've done to run to the rules.

"And honestly, I have full confidence in Mohammed [bin Sulayem, FIA president] in the way that he's conducted himself to this point and in terms of being strict and being clear with the rules.

"The rules are rules, and for those sort of things, which can lead to real alterations in terms of car performance, those sorts of things, we definitely have to take it seriously.

"But as I said, I don't know if it's true or not, so we'll see."

Max Verstappen was forced to abandon his final lap in qualifying after his Red Bull ran out of fuel in Singapore, he confirmed after the session.

The reigning Formula One world champion was pushing to leapfrog Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for pole position in a wet session under the lights but was called into the pits as he approached the line.

Verstappen immediately expressed his fury over team radio and subsequently confirmed in the media pen that he was called in because there was not enough fuel left in the car.

"They told me to abort so I thought okay I'll do that but then on the final lap, they told me to box and then I realised what was going to happen and we ran out of fuel," he told Sky Sports.

"That's just incredibly frustrating and shouldn't happen. And even when you under-fuel it, you track that throughout the session, you're not going to make it and we should've seen that clearly.

"Not happy at the moment. It's a team effort. I can make mistakes and the team can make mistakes but it's never acceptable. Of course, you learn from it but this is really bad and  shouldn't happen."

F1 regulations state that each team must have enough fuel remaining after qualifying for scrutineering, with punishments issued if the required amount cannot be met.

Verstappen will start eighth on the grid for Sunday's race in south east Asia, where he can mathematically win the title but would require a massive shake-up across the grid.

Charles Leclerc clinched a ninth pole position of the season in Singapore, with Max Verstappen struggling in the wet conditions.

Intermediate tyres were used across the grid in the first two rounds of qualifying, with the deck only being shuffled in Q3 as eight of the 10 runners made the jump to slicks – though there were initial difficulties to find pace.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were the first to hit their stride while others tiptoed around the wet sections of the track, with each claiming provisional pole twice before a resurgence from others on the grid.

Leclerc, who held pole the last time F1 visited Singapore in 2019, punched home a blistering lap to initially open a lead of a second and a half before others responded, Sergio Perez joining him on the front row as Hamilton lines up third – just five hundredths of a second away from his first pole of the 2022 season.

It was an entirely different story for a furious Verstappen, who will start eighth on the grid after being forced to abandon his final lap, unleashing his anger over the team radio.

Verstappen could seal the championship under the lights in Singapore if results go his way, though it now seems even more unlikely given his lowly start.

Leclerc admitted the conditions made for a tricky challenge for the drivers, with his call to move away from the intermediate compound coming just before the start of the final session

"It's been a very tricky qualifying, Q1 and Q2 with the intermediates, then in Q3 we didn't really know what to do," he said. "We went for the soft at the very last minute, and it paid off.

"It was really tricky, I made a mistake in my last lap, so I thought we wouldn't get through, but it was just enough, so I'm really happy."

Perez, starting second, will have a big role to play in Verstappen's charge up the grid and intends to immediately put Leclerc under pressure.

"It's an opportunity tomorrow to attack Charles from the start and go for the win," he said.

"It's disappointing to miss out on pole by two hundredths, but at the end of the day, it's a great result."

Hamilton was also disappointed to narrowly miss out on pole, saying: "I was pushing so hard, it was so close. These guys are always so quick, but I just thought that maybe with a perfect lap we could be pushing for first place.

"We just didn't have the grip in the last lap, but I'm grateful to be on the second row. I'm grateful for the team to keep pushing, and we'll keep our head down. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:49:412
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.022
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.054
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.171
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.554
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.172
7. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.799
8. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.983
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +2.161
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.571

Red Bull chief Christian Horner has described claims of the team breaking Formula One's $145million (£114m) budget cap as "speculation", though Ferrari and Mercedes state the situation is an "open secret".

Two teams have reportedly breached F1's spending regulations, one of which is by a "significant amount", and Red Bull have swiftly been attributed with guilt – although there is no proof.

Horner told BBC Sport that it was "purely speculation" and added to Sky Sports he was "not aware" of any breach.

"We are certainly not aware of any [breaches]. The accounts were all submitted way back in March, so it's been a long process with the FIA going through, and we are in that process as we speak," he said.

The FIA will issue certificates of compliance on October 5, or announce any breaches, but both Mercedes and Ferrari suggested there was an understanding on the grid that two teams are at risk of punishment.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff claimed one such party was "fundamentally massively over". 

"There's a team in minor breach, which is more procedural, and another team that is fundamentally massively over and that is still being looked at," he said. "That's an open secret in the paddock."

And there was a similar view from Ferrari, with racing director Laurent Mekies saying: "It's now no secret that two teams broke the 2021 budget cap regulations, one by a significant amount, the other less so."

The situation creates a significant headache for the FIA, with the 2021 season already shrouded in controversy after Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to the title in the final race in Abu Dhabi, with race director Michael Masi failing to implement the rules correctly after a late safety car.

Emergence of further controversy will not be welcomed, and questions will be asked as to why the results are so delayed, with F1 now in the back end of the 2022 season and Verstappen waltzing to a second title in a row.

Punishments for budget cap breaches can be severe, with potential points deductions for minor violations, while the heaviest punishment for a larger breach includes banning a team or driver.

A breach last year would also have a knock-on effect into the current campaign as the cap includes development of the car for the following season.

Fernando Alonso will make a record 351st start when he competes in Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix – and his first Formula One boss believes there are many more to come.

Gian Carlo Minardi was managing director of the Minardi team when a young Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001, on the road to becoming a double world champion.

Those titles came in 2005 and 2006 at Renault, whom Alonso joined after only one year with Minardi, and he has missed only two seasons since, sitting out 2019 and 2020 when scratching an itch to compete in other motorsport events.

This weekend he will beat a record previously held by Kimi Raikkonen, who contested 350 grands prix, with Alonso competing for Alpine ahead of an end-of-season switch to Aston Martin.

Minardi told Stats Perform he is confident the 41-year-old Alonso will remain a strong presence on the grid for years to come.

"I recently met him in Monza, and he was very excited," Minardi said. "I would say he doesn't look 41 from an athletic point of view, so I guess he is very fit and keen to prove who he is, and with his new contract he will beat other records not easily reachable for other drivers."

Alonso can also beat the record of the most F1 races finished this weekend, another mark he shares with Raikkonen on 278.

Minardi recalled first getting to know Alonso in 1999, with F1 tests for the youngster soon following in Jerez, where his performance levels were "jaw-dropping".

According to Minardi, Alonso had the ability to win "more than five world titles" and ranks as "one of the drivers who made the difference in the last two generations".

Ahead of another move, as the drive with Aston Martin awaits, Minardi said: "Let's hope that this change – because one of Fernando's weaknesses is that he has always been unlucky when changing the team – is beneficial to him and Aston Martin can equip him with what Aston Martin had at their debut.

"Today, without a reason and despite their Mercedes engine, they struggle to get the results they did some years ago.

"So I wish him the best to watch him entertain us. That is what I told him... I still have fun watching you drive, so keep it up."

George Russell has described Alex Albon's decision to return for the Singapore Grand Prix as "audacious", praising the Williams driver's determination to feature in what he feels is Formula One's "toughest race".

Albon spent a night in intensive care earlier in September after suffering respiratory failure following treatment for appendicitis.

The 26-year-old was then replaced by Nyck de Vries for the Italian Grand Prix, but is set to return to the grid this weekend.

The Singapore race is the longest of the F1 season, while the humid conditions at the Marina Bay Street Circuit are expected to test drivers' stamina. 

Russell – whose move to Mercedes paved the way for Albon to assume his seat with Williams – has been impressed by his recovery, saying: "It's definitely audacious to come back for the toughest race of the season having only just recovered.

"But it just goes to show the sort of grit and determination he has. I was in contact with his family on the Saturday night because it was looking very scary at one point.

"But it's pretty impressive to see how he recovered so quickly. The human body is a scary thing.

"It just goes to show one minute everything is fine, and the next minute everything can change almost totally out of your control. It will be interesting to see how he gets on this weekend."

Asked about the difficult conditions drivers will face this weekend, Russell added: "It doesn't matter how much training you do, you will never be able to replicate what you go through on track.

"I have been training with at least three layers of clothes on every single gym session, every time I go out on the bike.

"It's pretty uncomfortable. It's quite impressive how difficult the body handles heat, even in the sauna for half an hour. That's what we will be experiencing in the car. And then there is the physical element and cognitive side of things."

Max Verstappen suggested he would have liked to see Ferrari take the Formula One title fight to the wire ahead of his first opportunity to seal consecutive championships.

Verstappen could retain the drivers' championship at Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, although it appears an unlikely prospect as he requires both Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc to post poor finishes.

Nevertheless, it appears to be a matter of time before Verstappen clinches his second crown, with Ferrari's issues with reliability and strategy costing Leclerc the chance to compete.

Verstappen holds a 119-point lead over Leclerc at the top of the standings after winning each of the last five races, and the Dutchman says he would have relished a closer battle.

"I mean, [there are] two sides. Yes, in one way, I would have liked them to still be in the fight," he said on Thursday. 

"But from my side, of course it's also nice to win it in a more calm way. 

"I think what is good to see is that they are very competitive this year compared to the last few years, and I think that's what F1 needed."

Meanwhile, Verstappen is not getting carried away by the prospect of wrapping up the title in Singapore, and has revealed he would prefer to seal the deal at next week's Japanese Grand Prix.

"It's a bit unrealistic for it to happen. So I don't really think about it," Verstappen added. "It's quite a long shot. I just want to enjoy the weekend, and of course, try to win it.

"I think Japan is nicer. I'm really excited to go back there, It's been a while. It's an amazing track and for me, anyway, it has quite special memories.

"The first time I drove an F1 car was there in FP1, and I will always remember that. And besides that, it is kind of a home GP with [Red Bull engine provider] Honda.

"I think [it will be] my first proper opportunity to win the title. So yeah, of course, I'm looking forward to Singapore right now. But I'm also very excited for next weekend."

Daniel Ricciardo has described the prospect of taking a Formula One reserve role in 2023 as "realistic" ahead of his McLaren exit.

Ricciardo has been linked with vacant seats at several teams since McLaren announced an early termination of his contract in August, with spots at Alpine, Williams and Haas up for grabs.

The Australian has struggled for consistency this year, and sits 14th in the drivers' championship standings after finishing just four of his 16 races in the top 10.

Ricciardo has also been linked with reserve roles at F1 heavyweights Red Bull and Mercedes, and recently said his desire to "get back to winning" will be a key consideration when he makes a decision on his future.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, Ricciardo said his preference remained a permanent spot on the grid, but refused to rule out taking a back-up role.  

"Let's say my head space is in the same space," he said on Thursday. "I'm still keen to be part of F1 and of course, plan A would be to be on the grid.

"So nothing's changed but I don't want to just jump at the first kind of seat available. 

"I know the landscape probably changes as well at the end of next year, with contracts and whatever, so I don't want to say I'm remaining patient, but remaining open."

Asked about the prospect of taking a reserve role, Ricciardo added: "It's certainly something that's realistic, yeah.

"That's the two realistic options. It's not to be anywhere else. I love other disciplines of motorsport but I don't see myself there. 

"I feel as well if I jump into something like that, it closes the door on F1. It kind of feels like I've checked out, and I haven't. So I'm solely focused on F1.

"My team is talking with, I want to say, pretty much everyone, or they're having conversations, so we're just trying to put it all together and figure out what makes the most sense.

"So it's not that they're not calling or they're not interested, I'm not coming from a place of overconfidence, but we're just doing our due diligence and figuring out what's best.

"I'm trying to see beyond next year. Of course, I want to be racing but I also don't want to just look at the next 12 months and not look at the next 24.

"I guess I don't want to just race to race, I want to race with a true belief or understanding that I could be back on the podium, ultimately."

Lewis Hamilton has declared he "feels for the fans" after Max Verstappen's dominance of the F1 championship battle this season.

The Red Bull ace tops the standings by a whopping 116 points heading into Sunday's race at Singapore, where he can clinch the crown if a series of permutations are met.

It is unlikely that Singapore will be the race where Verstappen wins the title, with a more likely scenario seeing him crowned champion the following week in Japan.

Either way, a second title in a row for Verstappen is inevitable and Hamilton has declared it is "never great" when the battle is concluded prematurely.

"I definitely feel for the fans because for everyone and even for us, last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody. So, it's never great when the season finishes early," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Even when I've experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico. For you as the one individual, it's great but for the actual sport it's not spectacular.

"I'm really grateful to have had 2008 right down to the last 17 seconds, and obviously last year, pretty much the same thing. Let's hope for the future, it's a bit better."

Williams have confirmed that Alex Albon will be back behind the wheel at this week's Singapore Grand Prix after recovering from appendicitis.

Albon spent a night in intensive care earlier this month after suffering respiratory failure due to post-operative anaesthetic complications, forcing him to miss the Italian Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old was replaced by Formula One debutant Nyck de Vries, who finished ninth at Monza.

Albon is now targeting a return to action in Singapore, but he is aware of just how tough it will be to ease himself back in on one of the calendar's most demanding tracks.

"Firstly, I'd just like to thank everyone for all their messages and support over the Italian Grand Prix weekend," he said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"My preparation has been a little different than normal but I'm feeling good and I've done everything possible to get ready for one of the most physical races on the calendar.

"I am not underestimating how big of a challenge this is going to be, but I am looking forward to hitting the track on Friday and getting back driving.

"It's a great street circuit and the closest race to home for me in Thailand, so I'm really excited to be here and to see the fans that have turned out."

Albon is 19th in the drivers' championship with four points after 16 races.

De Vries is on two points from one race, while fellow Williams driver Nicholas Latifi – who is leaving at the end of the campaign – is without a point.

Lewis Hamilton is adamant it will not be the "end of the world" if Mercedes fail to a win a race during the 2022 Formula One season.

A sequence of eight-consecutive constructors' championship titles looks set to come to an end this year, with Mercedes sitting 139 points behind Red Bull.

Hamilton is also on course for an unprecedented experience in F1, having never gone a season without a race victory during his time on the grid.

Mercedes' fall from grace has been one of the major stories in the 2022 season, but Hamilton has played down the significance of not topping the podium in the campaign.

"I do not look at it as a dry spell. I feel this year has been a year of growth," he said ahead of Sunday's race in Singapore.

"It has been a good experience for all. There are six races [left] so there's six opportunities and we will try to get a win, but if we do not do well, I do not think it is the end of the world."

Mercedes' focus for the remainder of the season is to assure their second-place finish in the constructors' championship ahead of Ferrari, with six races left before the end of the season.

"We just need to understand the car," Hamilton added. "Our goal is a second placing. Hopefully, in the next six races, we will do well."

Max Verstappen's coronation as Formula One world champion is imminent and could be marked as early as Singapore.

On the back of five victories in a row, Verstappen has opened a whopping 116-point gap at the top of the standings with six races remaining in 2022.

Verstappen will be crowned as champion if he wins under the lights in Singapore alongside clinching the fastest lap but would need Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to finish eighth or lower and team-mate Sergio Perez to finish fourth or lower.

Given the sequence of requirements for Verstappen to win on Sunday, the following week's race in Japan stands as the most likely to see the Red Bull ace secure his title, but individual records are also up for grabs.

A victory would also mark Verstappen's 12th of the season, putting him behind only Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel (both 13) for the most wins in a single season.

Qualifying will likely be vital to any hopes of another Verstappen win, with 66.7 per cent of race winners in Singapore starting from pole - Vettel being the last to win in 2019 when not starting from the front.

Mathematically, three drivers are still able to usurp Verstappen from his throne, George Russell also within distance alongside Leclerc and Perez, but the dominance of Red Bull this season makes any late turnover nigh-on impossible.

Hamilton's history

With six races remaining in 2022, Lewis Hamilton is without a victory this season and it could see the British driver fail to win a race in a campaign for the first time.

Mercedes have strong history in Singapore, however, securing more wins at the circuit than any other team (four), though Red Bull and Ferrari (both three) could equal that tally this weekend.

Spare seats

Alfa Romeo's new deal for Zhou Guanyu leaves three remaining seats on the grid for 2023, with Williams, Haas and Alpine yet to fill their quota for next year.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo are the two on the grid that could be on the move, with Ricciardo set to leave McLaren and Gasly heavily linked with Alpine, which would result in a seat up for grabs at AlphaTauri.

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