More twists in F1 rulebook than turns on the track. PETER COSTER reports on the Singapore Grand Prix crashes and clashes.
Rules in Formula One often interfere with the result, as happened in last year’s world drivers championship.
It depends on how you see it. Lewis Hamilton was deprived of an eighth world championship because lapped cars were cleared from between him and Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver had changed to fresh tyres while Hamilton stayed out in the Mercedes under a safety car.
Verstappen then passed Hamilton, who was on older tyres and took the world title.
The argument rages on. Australian race director Michael Masi said he got the lapped cars out of the way to allow the race to finish as a race.
Not as a procession of cars trundling past the chequered flag under the safety car.
Masi got the sack and is back in Australia running the domestic Supercars series. The rulemakers, the FIA, had to blame someone.Embed from Getty Images
In Singapore on Sunday, the same sort of bureaucracy was playing out.
The safety car was out and Sergio Perez in the Red Bull was leading after starting on pole, but he was not within an estimated 10 lengths of the safety car.
That’s against the rules, which are designed to keep the field together while a crashed car or debris is moved from the track.
The problem for Perez was that he found the safety car was being driven too fast, or too slow following a tropical downpour that had already delayed the start of the race by more than an hour.
Singapore is a night race and there was no sun shining to dry out the track.
This left the track “slippy” as the commentators insisted on calling it. But you get the idea.
There was standing water, which was still on the track at the end of the race and Perez alternated between falling too far behind the safety car, or getting too close to it. Possibly a fe centimetres in front of it as he waved for safety car driver Bert Mylander to get a move on.
The stewards warned Red Bull this was under investigation ands the term told Perez.
Usually, such matters are dealt with during the race and the team involved told if there is to be a penalty.
But Perez appeared to repeat his tardiness behind the safety car and it was decided nothing further would be said until the end of the race.
Perez won the race by some 7.5 seconds from Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Seinz and this where politics merged with reality, or so it seemed.
The stewards (there are now two of them following Masi’s departure) decided Perez would be reprimanded on the first count and given a five-second penalty on the second.
That meant the Red Bull driver was still the winner, which was the right decision although as was the case with the Masi ruling last year, not everyone agreed with it.
A furious Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotti said Perez should have received two five-second penalties, which would have lifted Leclerc to first ahead of Perez.
The argy bargy continued for another two hours but the FIA might have learnt something from the debacle at Abu Dhabi last year and at least awarded the race to the winner.
It would have been a disaster for F1 and it’s millions of fans around the world if the race had been decided on Perez being too many car lengths behind the safety car, which would have been someone’s guess at best.
There are rules and then there are rules and it was obvious that the stewards had been told to work their way through this before they created yet another furore.
Not when they already have one looming over allegations that Red Bull have broken the financial cap to supposedly ensure the midfield runners and the back markers can keep up with the spendthrifts at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Mercedes team boss and part-owner Toto Wolff has not recovered from the Abu Dhabi disaster, much of which he blames on Red Bull and says the FIA has been investigating the team’s financial records for months.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner says if they have, he is unaware of it and you would think he would know if there was an investigation that could potentially overturn not only last year’s world championship but this year’s as well, considering the spending is spread over two years.
So, Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix was rightfully won by Perez, who also won at Monaco this year and with four victories in the premier class is Mexico’s most successful driver.
But to say “Checo,” as he is known is Mexico’s greatest driver would be to overlook the Rodriquez brothers.
Ricardo Rodriquez was signed by Enzo Ferrari at the age of 19 and had two seasons before he was killed trying to set the fastest lap for the inaugural Mexican Grand Prix and was regarded as a future world champion.
His elder brother Pedro won the South African and Belgian Grand Prix ands two world sports car championships before he too was killed in an era when many of the world’s best drivers died on the track.
They were different days.
The Singapore race saw Daniel Ricardo return to some sort of form after being dropped by the McLaren team with a year remaining on his contract.
His failure to progress beyond qualy one was almost expected, but not his fifth place in the race on Sunday behind teammate Lando Norris.
It was his best performance since winning at Monza last year and holds out some hope for his resurrection as a Grand Prix driver if he can secure a seat; his best chance being with Alpine following Fernando Alonso’s decision to join Aston Martin.
There is the possibility of a drive for American term Haas if they drop Michael Schumacher’s son Mick, or at Williams, which has failed to resign Nicholas Latife.
Schumacher and Latife have a tendency to crash, but what of Ricciardo, who just doesn’t seem to have the pace that took him to eight Grand Prix victories.
The Honey Badger says he doesn’t want to sign up for a team that will not give him a chance of winning.
He might even take a chance as a reserve driver and says he might also consider taking a year out and returning in 2024.
“If the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year and if it means taking that time off to reset or re-evaluate, then if that’s the right thing to do then I’m willing to do it,” he told reporters after the Italian Grand Prix
There can be no guarantee there will be anything on offer and by the same token drivers who have taken time out have found they have little to offer when they have returned.