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Formula 1

Verstappen wins Japanese GP and 2022 F1 title amid confusion

by Matt Beer
8 min read

Max Verstappen took victory in the interrupted, delayed and shortened Japanese Grand Prix and claimed his second Formula 1 world title as full points were awarded in unusual circumstances.

Initially, it looked like there would be reduced points distribution due to the truncated race distance, plus the fastest lap going to Zhou Guanyu, which would mean Verstappen couldn’t celebrate the title in this wet and strange Suzuka race.

But after his parc ferme interview, Verstappen was declared to be the 2022 F1 champion with full points seemingly awarded because the race was restarted following a red flag – a situation that appears to circumvent the reduced points for less than 75% of race distance completed rule under which the win would have only earned 19 points.

Charles Leclerc narrowly beat Sergio Perez to second place on the road, but lost the place to a five-second penalty for going off at the chicane on the last lap and rejoining still ahead – a penalty that allowed Verstappen to take the title on Sunday instead of having to wait until Austin.

Verstappen very briefly lost the lead at the original start as Leclerc made a better getaway, but the Red Bull driver regained first place around the outside of the first corner.

Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz then demonstrated how bad conditions were by aquaplaning into the barriers on the way out of the hairpin.

That threw an advertising board onto the track, which was collected by Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.

The safety car was called out, followed by the red flag.

In that time, Gasly pitted for a new wing. While trying to catch up to the pack under the safety car, he came very close to a recovery truck on the racing line just after the red flag was shown – prompting fury from both drivers and team bosses.

But it is Gasly who will be investigated post-race, the stewards summoning him for driving too fast after the red flag came out.

An initial plan to restart the race 40 minutes after the stoppage was called off with moments to go as the rain worsened, and another hour and a quarter delay ensued.

Cars eventually left the pits again just over two hours on from the initial red flag, with 48 minutes left on the race clock under the system introduced in response to the farcical 2021 Belgian GP that comprised just three safety car laps.

Wet tyres were mandated for the rolling restart, but drivers were soon keen to get off them in favour of intermediates.

Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher and Zhou all did an initial lap on wets, just in case the safety car was called again or the race stopped early.

Only Schumacher and Haas persisted, even though the German driver was up to 10s off the pace once everyone else was on inters.

He fleetingly led before Verstappen cruised past him, though getting caught behind the slow Haas in a worse spot meant Leclerc went from being just over a second behind Verstappen to five seconds.

Not that it made much difference: Verstappen was soon lapping a second faster than his season-long rival and extending a commanding lead.

His final margin was nearly 27s, helped by the ferocity of the Leclerc versus Perez battle for second.

Perez closed quickly on the struggling Ferrari late on. They nearly made contact at the hairpin on the last lap, then Leclerc braked too late and shot across the run-off area at the chicane.

He rejoined still ahead of the Red Bull, but with Perez already calling over team radio for the stewards to intervene – which they promptly did.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon narrowly held off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in an even more spectacular and close battle for fourth place.

Sebastian Vettel achieved a remarkable sixth position for Aston Martin, considering he’d spun to the back of the field in contact after Alonso at the first start.

Vettel regained substantial ground by being among the first to pit for intermediates after the restart.

Alonso caught him, then decided to pit for fresh inters – a tactic adopted by several tail-enders who then put in very rapid laptimes, including fastest-lap-setter Zhou.

It allowed Alonso to scorch back from 10th to seventh, but he missed out on taking sixth by from Vettel by a mere 0.011s.

George Russell bemoaned Mercedes’ tactics having had to queue behind Hamilton at a double-stacked pitstop for inters, before recovering from outside the points to eighth.

Outgoing Williams driver Nicholas Latifi benefitted from an early intermediates switch to take his first points of the season in ninth, ahead of Lando Norris’s McLaren.

Race Results

Pos Name Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 28 28 3h1m44.004s 1m44.911s 2 25
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 28 0 +27.066s 1m46.12s 2 18
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 28 0 +31.763s 1m44.489s 2 15
4 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 28 0 +39.685s 1m46.559s 2 12
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 28 0 +40.326s 1m45.53s 2 10
6 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 28 0 +46.358s 1m46.964s 2 8
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 28 1 +46.369s 1m44.412s 3 6
8 George Russell Mercedes 28 0 +47.661s 1m47.004s 2 4
9 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 28 0 +1m10.143s 1m48.371s 2 2
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 28 0 +1m10.782s 1m48.175s 2 1
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 28 0 +1m12.877s 1m47.843s 2 0
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 28 0 +1m13.904s 1m45.205s 3 0
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 28 0 +1m15.599s 1m45.893s 3 0
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 28 0 +1m26.016s 1m48.072s 2 0
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 28 0 +1m26.496s 1m47.82s 2 0
16 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 28 0 +1m27.043s 1m44.411s 3 0
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Red Bull 28 0 +1m28.091s 1m45.387s 4 0
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 28 0 +1m32.523s 1m46.545s 2 0
Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0 0 DNF 0s 0 0
Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 0 0 DNF 0s 0 0
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