Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is the 2022 Formula 1 World Champion after winning the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in a shortened, rain interrupted race.
Needing to outscore Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by eight points and teammate Sergio Perez by six to win the world championship, Verstappen did not find out until post-race that he was the 2022 champion.
Leclerc who crossed the line in second place was handed a five-second penalty post-race for cutting the corner on the final chicane. This meant he dropped down to third while Perez moved up to second.
As a result Verstappen earned 25 points, Perez 18 and Leclerc 15, therefore deciding the Drivers’ Championship.
This makes the Dutchmen a two-time world champion having won the 2021 championship and the 10th driver to win back-to-back titles.
Verstappen has his teammate to thank for the victory as Perez pushed Leclerc hard during the final lap, with his pressure ultimately causing the Ferrari driver to make the mistake which handed Verstappen the championship.
It was a bizarre race in Japan with just 28 laps raced following a red flag three laps into the Grand Prix due to heavy rainfall.
Verstappen held onto first place through those first three laps although he was challenged early by Leclerc who was quicker off the mark, although the Dutchmen was able to recover and hold onto first going into turn one.
The opening lap was chaos with the wet track resulting in several drivers spinning out of control, none more notable than Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who ran into the barriers forcing him out of the race before one lap had even been completed.
With the race being red flagged it was a long wait until it was deemed safe for racing to resume, with just 48 minutes of time remaining when the cars returned to the track under the guidance of the safety car.
When the safety car finally entered the pits and a rolling start occurred to resume normal racing, there were only 40 minutes of time remaining. Under the FIA ruling the Grand Prix must be completed within a three-hour window of when it was set to start.
Once the race did resume all the drivers quickly pitted to put intermediate tyres on with the now two-time world champion holding into to first place. From there he slowly increased his lead over the next 25 laps to win the Grand Prix by a margin of 27 seconds.
Red Bull is yet to win the Constructors Championship although it seems inevitable barring some unforeseen circumstances with them currently holding a 619 to 454 point lead over Ferrari.
McLaren sneaks into the points
McLaren leave Japan having collected just one point via Lando Norris who finished 10th while Aussie Daniel Ricciardo missed out on scoring with an 11th place result.
Having started the race in 11th place Ricciardo made a strong start to the Grand Prix moving up to 8th before the race was suspended on the third lap. In this same time Norris had struggled falling three spots from 10th to 13th.
When the race got back underway and the drivers subsequently pitted to put on the intermediate tyres Norris was the beneficiary coming out ninth while Ricciardo suffered falling to 13th.
The Aussie was able to make up some more ground, but with the wet conditions and no DRS to help him, it proved too difficult to move further up the grid.
McLaren remains in fifth place in the Constructors Championship on 130 points while Lando Norris holds on seventh in the Drivers’ Standings and Ricciardo 12th.
Disaster day for Ferrari
Ferrari’s day went from bad to worse in Suzuka with tragedy striking on the first and final lap of the race for the team.
While Ferrari has been competitive throughout 2022, they have constantly made errors during Grand Prix’s which have cost them valuable points with today’s being as meaningful as ever.
Leclerc’s error on the final lap which resulted in a five-second penalty handed Verstappen the 2022 Drivers World Champion, while Sainz’s crash on the opening lap meant his teammate was sandwiched between both Red Bulls.
With just four Grand Prix’s remaining this season Ferrari will be hoping to build some momentum during these final races and heading into next season.
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Controversy dominated the break in the action following the red flag with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly almost colliding with a tractor prior to entering the pits. As the racers were making their way around the track to return to the pits a tractor was seen on the track right on Gasly’s racing line.
The tractor was on the track due to crashes on the first lap of the Grand Prix, however questions were asked as to why the recovery vehicle was on the circuit while cars were still on the track combined with the fact that at the time racers were experiencing poor visibility due to the rain. With cars slipping and sliding around Gasly was lucky to avoid a serious accident.
To add further controversy, the Alpha Tauri driver was summoned to the stewards for exceeding the speed limit under the red flag as he was speeding along the track to try and catch up to the safety car before the encounter.
The incident was especially poignant following the tragic circumstances of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix where Jules Bianchi lost his life in a similar situation.
Some of Gasly’s fellow drivers took to Twitter to vocalise their displeasure with the events that transpired.
Other notable performances
The final 10 minutes of the Grand Prix were filled with excitement with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton battling it out for fourth place. Ocon did an incredible job defending fourth place from the seven-time World Champion, constantly shutting off Hamilton’s overtaking opportunities to earn 12 points for the team.
The result was Ocon’s highest finishing position in a Grand Prix this season.
Williams Nicholas Latifi scored his first points of the season in Suzuka after finishing in ninth place. This was impressive considering Latifi began the race in 19th place and previous best result was 12th at Silverstone.
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