A Red Bull 1-2 in a contracted Japanese Grand Prix finally confirmed Max Verstappen as a two-time WDC winner.
Undoubtedly Max Verstappen had hoped that his second WDC win would come in more triumphant circumstances, with fans and crew cheering and waving Dutch flags, exhortations coming down the radio and iconic commentary soundtracking the moment. Unfortunately, some confusion over the rules and a delayed and anticlimactic race at Suzuka delayed Verstappen and Red Bull’s celebrations. The race today, delayed significantly following adverse weather conditions, was only able to go for 28 laps and was held in blindingly wet and unsafe conditions, clear from the very first lap. The first lap saw several dangerous incidents, as Carlos Sainz flew into the advertising boards, the board in question finding its way onto the car of Pierre Gasly. The danger only continued as the safety car was introduced and then a red flag, with the Frenchman risking a serious accident as he passed a recovery vehicle at high speed. Chilling comparisons between today and the incident that resulted in the death of Jules Bianchi in 2014 at Suzuka naturally emerged, although thankfully no one was harmed today.
The resumption of the race long after the third lap red flag saw Charles Leclerc in second place fail to pull Verstappen back from first position and into a tough duel with last week’s winner Sergio Perez. As the race came to a close, the three-hour racing window almost up, Leclerc held off Perez until the very last chicane. Perez’s pressure climaxed and forced the Ferrari driver into a mistake off-track, resulting in a rapid five second penalty that saw the Mexican move up to second. Meanwhile, Verstappen came home 25 seconds prior to them both, which barring much confusion and reading of technical regulations, was rewarded with full points for the shortened and delayed race and the World Driver’s Championship.
Today’s drama notwithstanding, it is clear that the 2022 F1 season has been dominated by Max Verstappen, and his second championship harbors none of the negative sentiment of Abu Dhabi last year that for some clouded his achievement. This championship will surely not dent his desire to dominate the remaining races in the calendar, starting at the Circuit of the Americas.
1 – Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 29 Laps
2 – Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +27.066
3 – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +31.753
4 – Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +39.685
5 – Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +40.326
6 – Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, +46.358
7 – Fernando Alonso, Alpine, +46.369
8 – George Russell, Mercedes, +47.661
9 – Nicholas Latifi, Williams, +70.143
10 – Lando Norris, McLaren, +70.782
11 – Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, +72.877
12 – Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +73.904
13 – Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +75.599
14 – Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +86.016
15 – Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +86.496
16 – Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +87.043
17 – Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, +88.091
18 – Mick Schumacher, Haas, +92.523
Did not finish
Alex Albon (Williams) Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)