Verstappen wins chaotic, rain-shortened Japanese GP to clinch title

Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen poses on the podium with the trophy following his victory at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Mie prefecture on Oct. 9, 2022.
Toshifumi Kitamura | Afp | Getty Images

Max Verstappen sealed his second Formula 1 world championship amid huge confusion after winning a chaotic, rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix.

There was huge confusion at the chequered flag amid uncertainty over whether full or partial points would be awarded for a race in which only 29 of the 53 scheduled laps were completed.

With between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of the laps completed, most of the F1 paddock believed Verstappen would only be awarded 19 points for his victory. But for the Japanese GP there was a different interpretation of the rules, which state that the reduced points are only applied if a race is suspended “and cannot be resumed”.

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Verstappen was clearly confused by the situation as celebrations began and were then paused, but it was eventually confirmed that full points had been awarded, sealing the 25-year-old’s triumph with four races of the season remaining.

“The first one is a little more emotional, the second one is more beautiful,” Verstappen said.

“Looking back, what a year we’ve had so far. It’s been incredible. It’s something I could never have imagined. After last year, fighting until the end, and then having such a good car again this year. I’m so thankful to everyone who has been contributing to this success.”

The Dutchman would have been denied the title if Charles Leclerc had come second, but the Ferrari driver’s final-lap error saw him given a five-second penalty – for leaving the track and gaining an advantage – that demoted him to third behind the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

The field leave the pitlane for the restart following a red flag delay during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on Oct. 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan.
Dan Istitene – Formula 1 | Formula 1 | Getty Images

The race had earlier threatened to be overshadowed by controversy, as an initial attempt to start in heavy rain resulted in chaos, with Carlos Sainz crashing into a barrier, before a recovery tractor came on track with the cars still on the circuit.

The race was red-flagged and a two-hour plus delay ensued as rain continued to fall, with the chances of a resumption appearing bleak at several points.

However, the skies cleared and the race resumed with a rolling start behind the Safety Car, with about 45 minutes left on the three-hour clock that had began ticking with the initial start.

The drying track saw the field switch from full wet tyres to intermediate, but Verstappen was comfortable throughout as he pulled clear to win by 27 seconds.

Esteban Ocon produced a brilliant defensive display to hold off Lewis Hamilton for fourth, while Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi benefitted from being the first cars to pit at the restart, finishing sixth and ninth respectively.

Japanese GP Final Result, Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
4) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
7) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
8) George Russell, Mercedes
9) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
10) Lando Norris, McLaren

Sophie Tremblay

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