It was a long night for the winner. At 11:55 p.m. local time, Sergio Pérez had to go to the race control, only the official documents, scheduled for 1:35 a.m. and 1:42 a.m., brought salvation. The Red Bull driver was allowed to take a deep breath – and keep his victory at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The stewards had investigated Pérez for two almost identical violations. On both lap 10 and lap 36, the Mexican in the lead followed the safety car. The rules stipulate a maximum distance of ten car lengths, Pérez had exceeded it in each case. In the past, such offenses were punished with a five-second time penalty, adding up to a ten-second penalty would have resulted. Pérez would have lost his win to Charles Leclerc, who finished 7.6 seconds back. But the rulers punished mildly – and above all, both offenses differently.
For the violation in lap 10, the race control left it with a warning. Pérez argued with the still wet conditions on the drying street circuit and the low temperatures of his tires and brakes. And while the stewards “did not accept that the conditions were such that it was impossible or dangerous for Pérez to maintain the required distance,” they did consider Pérez’s portrayal as “mitigating circumstances.”
Pérez was only punished for the repeat case, i.e. the offense in lap 36. He then spoke of “a few miscommunications” with safety car driver Bernd Mayländer. “Where I could keep up, he was super slow. Where not, he was fast. There were just misunderstandings,” said the 32-year-old.
As complex as the case was, the decision-making process also took a long time. Pérez had long since taken a champagne bath on the podium, received the trophy and given the winner’s interview. Pérez had to wait more than two hours. The Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger described this period of time as a “farce”. Pérez’s team, who had given their all to give their protégé as much of a lead as possible in the final stages of the race, was also raging.
“It’s absurd that we have to wait so long for the decision,” Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko told BILD. “The stewards took their time, but made the right decision. It would have been a shame if they had taken that win away from Checo,” added team boss Christian Horner. He referred again to the difficult circumstances on the track.
The Formula 1 experts are now discussing the legality of the sentence. While the former Mercedes team boss Norbert Haug classified the verdict on “Sport 1” as correct because Pérez “didn’t get any major advantage”, the former Formula 1 driver Christian Danner speaks of “incredible luck that one of the two offenses was only punished with a warning”.