Max Verstappen said he was poised to dominate Formula One for years to come after clinching his second consecutive world title at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. The Red Bull driver won a dramatic rain-shortened race at Suzuka to take the championship when his closest rival Charles Leclerc was relegated to third place by a five-second penalty. The Flying Dutchman said it was a “crazy feeling” to lift the trophy a second time – and then aim to dominate the sport for years to come.
“If I have a competitive car, I’m confident that we can continue like this,” said the 25-year-old, who has won 12 of 18 races this season.
“It also depends on what the competition comes up with. I really believe in this group and I really hope that we can enjoy many more wins and possibly championships in the years to come.”
Verstappen was only told in the middle of the post-race TV interview that he had kept his title, and even the driver himself wasn’t sure.
Ferrari’s Leclerc crossed the line second ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez but he was penalized after squashing Perez in the final chicane and was believed to have gained an advantage by going off track .
“I made a mistake and tried to minimize it,” said Leclerc, who led the championship earlier in the season. “Congratulations to Max and Red Bull. Max was incredible and it’s a title that’s totally deserved.”
The altered result gave Verstappen an unassailable 113-point lead over Perez, making him only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title with four races to go.
“I was told I was world champion, we celebrated and then people said to me, ‘No, you’re missing a point,'” he said of the confusion after the race.
“In the end we had enough points to become world champions again.”
The Japanese Grand Prix was held for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic, but the race got off to a chaotic start in heavy rain.
Leclerc got off the line quicker than polesitter Verstappen, who admitted he had made a “terrible start” before the Dutchman retook the lead with a brave overtake on the outside of corner one.
“It was very close, but people like to see that,” he said.
– praise from Hamilton –
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz spun on the first lap and Alex Albon’s Williams collapsed, resulting in a safety car.
A red flag followed shortly after, forcing the drivers back into the pit lane for almost two hours.
Verstappen continued with a rolling start ahead of Leclerc and Perez, easily extending his lead as the safety car re-entered the pits and track conditions began to improve.
“Congratulations to Max, he did exactly the work he had to do to win his second title,” said seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, whom Verstappen led to the championship a year ago under controversial circumstances.
Verstappen was 46 points behind Leclerc after three races but continued to dominate, winning 11 of the next 15 Grands Prix. And he’s hungry for more.
“I still want to try to win more races because with the car we have now you have to try to take advantage of that because you don’t know if you’ll ever have that again in the years to come,” he said.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner paid tribute. “It was with a lot of pride that he wore number one this year,” he said.
French driver Pierre Gasly reacted furiously after a scary moment when he nearly hit a tractor on track early in the race in rain and poor visibility.
AlphaTauri’s Gasly said he could have been killed by the vehicle used to recover Sainz’s car.
It brought back painful memories of the tragic 2014 race at Suzuka, when another French driver, Jules Bianchi, died after colliding with a recovery vehicle in poor conditions.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
Topics mentioned in this article