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Formula 1

The rule anomaly behind Verstappen’s confusing F1 coronation

by Matt Beer
2 min read

The confusion over whether Max Verstappen had actually clinched the 2022 Formula 1 world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix arose through an anomaly in the regulations, specifically in the rule that was altered after the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix farce.

Half-points were awarded for that race despite only three laps being completed, all of them behind the safety car.

Under the pre-2022 regulations, the half-points provision applied for any scenario between two laps being run and 75% distance (when full points were awarded) being reached.

F1 Belgian GP Spa-Francorchamps

But the Spa fallout led to a new set of points distributions for shortened races. These only apply if more than two laps are completed under racing conditions.

As per article 6.5 of the F1 sporting regulations for 2022, races under 25% distance award points for the top five on a 6-4-3-2-1 basis, with increased points on offer once 25% and then 50% are passed.

Teams were under the impression it would be the 50% provision – which meant the top 10 scored at a reduced rate of 19 for the winner, 14 for second place etc – that would apply at Suzuka today.

But it then emerged during the post-race procedure that the rule over altered points distribution only applied if a race was shortened because it was stopped and “could not be resumed” – the wording specified in the rule, which had also been in place in its previous iterations.

The rule therefore did not apply if a race was shortened because it started late and the clock limit was hit.

The three-hour limit had been established ahead of 2021, replacing the previous four-hour limit that initially came in as a result of the famous 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.

Canadian GP 2011 F1

As today’s Japanese GP was restarted after its initial red flag, article 6.5 was not applicable given the wording of the regulations and full points would have been available however short it turned out.

So rather than Verstappen still needing one point to seal his title because he’d only outscored Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by five points when he needed six and Leclerc by only seven points when he needed eight, he actually took the full 25 points for a normal race win – meaning he outscored Perez by seven and Charles Leclerc by 10.

That meant it was actually Leclerc’s post-race 5s penalty for maintaining second on the road ahead of Perez despite going off at the chicane on the last lap that allowed Verstappen to become champion today.

Charles Leclerc Sergio Perez F1 Japanese GP Suzuka

Had Leclerc finished second, Verstappen would have only outscored him by seven points on the day, keeping the Monegasque mathematically in the title hunt.

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