After winning a chaotic, rainy Japanese Grand Prix (GP), Max Verstappen sealed his second Formula One (F1) world championship amid huge confusion.
At the finish line, there was a great deal of doubt regarding the awarding of full or partial points for a race in which only 29 of the scheduled 53 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”.
Verstappen was visibly perplexed by the circumstances as celebrations started and then stopped, but it was later determined that full points had been awarded, securing the 25-year-victory old’s with four races left in the season.
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.Max Verstappen
“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 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.
As rain continued to fall, the race was red-flagged, and a two-hour plus delay followed. At various points, it looked unlikely that the race would resume.
However, with roughly 45 minutes left on the three-hour clock that had started ticking with the initial start, the skies cleared and the race resumed with a rolling start behind the Safety Car.
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
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- Esteban Ocon, Alpine
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- George Russell, Mercedes
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams
- Lando Norris, McLaren