Did Sergio Pérez deserve a harsher penalty? Plus: Lawson’s Singapore GP statement


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Welcome back to Prime Tire, where we’re wondering whether it’s worth cooling off with champagne if you’re going to be sweaty and sticky during media interviews.

Well, that was a fun weekend, eh? Carlos Sainz ended Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s streak with a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix victory. I’m Patrick, and Madeline Coleman will be along shortly. Let’s dive in.

Singapore delivered

As soon as it became clear that Red Bull’s troubles in Singapore were legitimate, anticipation for the grand prix seemed to rise to a fever pitch. The race didn’t disappoint.

Sunday offered two hours jam-packed with bold strategy calls, a four-way battle for the win and even a helping of controversy as a treat.

  • Max Verstappen’s shocking qualifying exit opened the door for Carlos Sainz, who strode through for the second win of his F1 career. Sainz started on pole and led every single lap – a pretty good Verstappen impression, honestly.
  • Not that it was easy. With Red Bull out of the picture and a win within their grasp, Mercedes played things aggressively with a late pit stop. That led to a thrilling chase between the Mercedes, Lando Norris and Sainz in the waning laps. In the end, it took some 4D-chess for Sainz to hang on and win.
  • On his cool-down lap, Sainz and his race engineer sang his nickname: “🎶Smoooooth operatooor🎶”
  • We have to note that, despite everything, Verstappen finished fifth in the GP and our weekly driver rankings. Even when the Red Bull isn’t great, it’s still very good.
  • As for the controversy? Well, I’ll let Madeline fill you in from the paddock in just a bit. But first, let’s run through two extra takeaways from Marina Bay …
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Liam Lawson continues to impress. (Bryn Lennon/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Is Liam Lawson here to stay?

I mean, technically, he’s not. AlphaTauri confirmed on Monday that the rookie who replaced Daniel Ricciardo will race this weekend in Japan. But by the time we reach Qatar in early October, it’s possible that Ricciardo will be back behind the wheel.

As Luke Smith and Madeline noted in our race takeaways, Lawson is making the future at AlphaTauri pretty murky by racing so impressively. He was the driver whose Q2 lap eliminated Verstappen from qualifying, and he followed it up with a P9 finish – the highest for AlphaTauri this season.

Ricciardo always had a lot of pressure riding on his return: 12 races to prove he deserved a seat somewhere in 2024. Now, not only will that number will be down to a maximum of eight, but he’ll be racing against Lawson’s sparkling first impression. Whenever Ricciardo comes back, his dream (a return to Red Bull) could be more difficult to manifest. And we haven’t even mentioned Yuki Tsunoda, who might be feeling the heat from Lawson, as well.

The real losers of the Singapore GP

I published my latest set of race weekend winners and losers this morning. Have to admit: I’m still having fun writing about the Singapore GP even two days after it ended. I thought Sainz did a great job explaining why.

“I just think it’s great for F1 if Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Aston would be that two, three-tenths quicker every race, to challenge (Red Bull) in race pace,” Sainz said. “I think the racing this year would be incredible, and it would be eight drivers fighting for wins, a bit like we saw today with four or five guys out there fighting for a win around a street track. So it just shows the potential F1 has to create an incredible show.

Yep, and all it took was one race that brought Red Bull back into the pack’s orbit.

But, hey, I teased you with a headline about “the real losers.” So let’s talk about the real losers of the weekend: the lizards. At least two monitor lizards ambled across the track during Friday’s first practice. One of them might have died. Between Montreal’s groundhogs, Baku’s cat and Singapore’s lizards, I think we can safely say that F1’s popularity boom has gotten out of paw hand.

Inside the paddock with Madeline Coleman

Coming into the Singapore Grand Prix, Williams expected it to be rough. Yet Alex Albon overcame the lack of pace. And with a strong strategy, he found himself in points contention, seemingly set for an eighth-place finish.

That is, until there were four laps to go. Sergio Pérez tried to stick an ambitious move on Albon as he dove inside the Williams, causing a collision. Albon fell to P13 but recovered for an 11th-place finish.

Meanwhile, Pérez did receive a five-second time penalty; however, it did not impact his race, prompting plenty to criticize and question Checo’s punishment. James W. asked in our mailbag gatherer this week whether F1 should change that time penalty, and it’s a fair question. The move not only dropped Albon out of points but also (in part) benefitted Williams’ rivals, Haas and AlphaTauri.

The stewards felt Pérez’s move “was an ‘optimistic’ late maneuver by (Pérez), that it could be defined as ‘diving in,’ and that there was nothing that the (Albon) could have done to avoid the collision. Accordingly, it is determined that (Pérez) was predominantly to blame.

“We note the presence of the slower (Liam Lawson) in front of (Albon) caused (Pérez) to believe he could make the overtake and therefore, in mitigation of penalty, we determined to allocate only one penalty point.”

What constitutes a five-second time penalty? It seems like a wide range. Fernando Alonso received one for crossing the pit entry line, a non-dangerous move that didn’t impact others. With other penalties at their disposal, it begs the question of whether a stronger one should’ve been used for Pérez when comparing these two very different incidents (and their respective impacts) that received the same punishment (just without the penalty point in Alonso’s case).

And now, a photo presented without context

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👀 (Bryn Lennon/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Just kidding, we found the context.

Outside the points

We had a few bits of off-track news this weekend. Let’s quick hit them:
Toto Wolff confirmed that Mercedes are keeping a close eye on Felipe Massa’s legal attempt to overturn Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 championship.

We’re already planning for the Japanese GP this weekend. Luke detailed his journey into the Singapore time zone last week. Safe to say the acclimation process this week for all of us will be a little more intense. It’s nighttime in Japan and morning in North America, so I am going to bed in about three hours. Goodnight, folks!

(Lead image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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