Max Verstappen wins in Japan and takes second F1 title

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clinched his second consecutive Formula One title on Sunday by winning a rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix after his closest rival Charles Leclerc received a post-race penalty.

Dutchman Verstappen had crossed the finish line ahead of the Ferrari driver, who, defending against Sergio Perez’s other Red Bull, crossed the checkered flag a distant second.

But the Monegasque had added five seconds to his race time when he crossed the final chicane on the final lap, dropping him to third place.

“It’s obviously a crazy feeling as I wasn’t expecting it when I crossed the finish line,” said Verstappen amid confusion over whether the reduced points would apply under the new rules introduced this year if the race just past the half-time mark.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (right) of the Netherlands is followed by second-placed teammate Sergio Perez of Mexico on the podium during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday October 9 2022, sprinkled with champagne. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)

“If it was half points, I didn’t know how many points I would get,” he added.

The FIA, which is responsible for the sport, clarified that the reduced points rule only applies to races that have been suspended and cannot be resumed.

Sunday’s race was abandoned after two laps due to heavy rain, but resumed just over two hours later, with drivers completing 28 of the scheduled 53 laps and earning full points.

As a result, Verstappen leaves Japan 113 points clear of Perez, who now moves up to second place overall. He needed at least 112 points clear of his closest pursuer to be crowned champion on Sunday.

Verstappen’s victory in Japan was his 12th of 18 races. With four races remaining, the Dutchman is on course to break the record for most wins in a season, which stands at 13 shared by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.

“Max was just amazing,” said Leclerc, the early title favorite who held a 46-point lead over Verstappen after the first three races.

“It’s a well-deserved title.

“We will try to push the last four races to improve as a team and hopefully have a bigger challenge next year.”

Verstappen started from pole position on Sunday.

He was knocked off the line by Leclerc in the wet but went wheel to wheel with the Ferrari through the first two corners, behind which spray was spraying, and took the initiative.

Multi-car incidents called in the safety car before the first lap could be completed, while an on-track recovery vehicle sounded the alarm as Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri sped past.

Conditions forced the race to be abandoned on the second lap and after the two-hour delay it resumed with a rolling start.

But Verstappen disappeared into the distance and was scored 27 seconds ahead of his teammate.

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