F1: Verstappen wins rain shortened Japanese GP for 2nd World Title

Wet or dry, Red Bull Honda ace Max Verstappen is the best F1 driver and today he proved it once again to win the Japanese GP going away from his main rival Charles Leclerc and teammate Sergio Perez on a very wet Suzuka circuit, and his 2nd straight F1 World Driving Title.

The race originally got under way as planned at 2:00pm local time, with Verstappen defending from Leclerc after a close run to Turn 1, and only two laps being completed before the action was red-flagged amid intense spray and a series of incidents – which included Carlos Sainz crashing out.

Verstappen takes the outside line to grab lead from Leclerc on the first race start. Leclerc had enjoyed the superior launch, despite the limited grip, to draw alongside polesitter Verstappen and the Ferrari even pulled ahead by half a car length. However, the Dutchman kept his right-foot in it through the first corner to hold the line and decisively retake first place.

Verstappen won a restarted race amid persistent rain at Suzuka.  The race was shortened to a 2-hour limit and just 28 of 53 laps, but in the 26 laps running under the green, Verstappen gapped Perez and Leclerc by 1-second per lap. Total domination.

Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 takes the checkered flag way ahead of everyone else to win the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

A lengthy delay followed, with the overall three-hour race limit ticking down, and the two-hour window coming into force an hour after the initial start, as Race Control waited for a suitable gap in the weather to get the action going again.

It was always a matter of when, not if Verstappen, would be crowned champion. Today, after 28 laps, some of them behind a Safety Car to boot, he won the race by nearly 30 seconds. “He’s at another level,” said team boss Christian Horner, and it is hard to disagree.

Total domination for his 12th win of the year and 32nd of his career. More importantly, he clinched his 2nd straight title with ease.

He now has 12 wins from 18 races this season, and is on to break the record held by Vettel and Michael Schumacher, of 13 wins in a season.

“We got quite a good amount of laps in, the car was flying. Very happy we could race here,” said Verstappen to the fans who sat in the rain all day.

Leclerc did all he could to hold off Sergio Perez for 2nd and on the last lap Leclerc went off the track in Turn 16 and back on to hold off Perez and the race stewards gave Leclerc a 5-second penalty meaning Perez finished 2nd and Verstappen then had enough points to win his 2nd straight title.

“It was a bit hectic with Charles, good racing, I tried to make a move and he locked up and went off. The penalty was fair,” said Perez.

Esteban Ocon had a great battle with Lewis Hamilton for 4th with the Alpine driver holding off Hamilton by less than 1-second.

Fernando Alonso and George Russell were close behind Hamilton for 6th and 7th.

Nicholas Latifi has come home in the points after qualifying last yesterday, what a race for the Canadian. Lando Norris came home in P10, with Daniel Ricciardo his McLaren bridesmaid in 11th.

Verstappen seemed to be in shock because at first, he did not clinch the title, and then he did. Although he’s had a few months to prepare for this moment, his five-race winning streak from France onwards all but sealing the title.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 leading Charles Leclerc in heavy rain during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images ) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“It’s crazy, mixed emotions,” said Verstappen. “Winning the race, but looking back – what a year we’ve had, it’s been incredible. I’m so thankful to everyone who has worked so hard. The work we’ve done together with Honda, to win twice with them is so emotional, especially here. I’m very proud we could do it here.

“The first one is a little more emotional, the second one is more beautiful – just the season we’ve had, the 1-2’s, leading the constructors’. It’s been a special year, and you need to remind yourself, as these kind of years you don’t have very often.”

Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“We thought we were one point short, we didn’t think full points were being awarded,” said Christian Horner. “Max has been truly, truly dominant. Our 14th victory, a record for us as a team. Honestly, he, the team have just raised it to another level.

“For Honda to win this as well, and here. We’re truly grateful for their support in previous years and as a supplier this year,” says Horner. “It needs everything to come together to achieve the kind of results we have. It’s unexpected, we didn’t think we had the points today but wow, unbelievable.”

Carlos Sainz Jr started 3rd in the #55 Ferrari but ran out of talent on lap 1 in the rain and wadded up his car against the barriers.

There were other incidents on lap 1 in the heavy rain and after 8 minutes and 2 laps the safety car was initially deployed before the red flags halted events.

The restart procedure was suspended indefinitely by race control and over the next 80 minutes, heavier showers periodically arrived at the track.

In that time, the medical car was sent out occasionally for reconnaissance laps, but conditions did not improve sufficiently until almost two full hours had passed after the initial red flag and the race could resume.

The Dutch driver’s first title was marked by drama and acrimony as he fought a down-to-the wire, battle-of-the-generations duel with Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.
That ended in one of the sport’s greatest controversies, with a late change to the safety car procedures leading to a last lap overtake in Abu Dhabi.
“The first is more emotional but the second is more beautiful,” said Verstappen, who won the rain-hit race by a massive 27 seconds.
Buoyed by his 2021 title win over the sport’s most successful driver ever, Verstappen has shown metronomic consistency.

Verstappen got full points

Per the new regulations, written after last year’s Spa debacle, for winning a race that had completed two laps but less than 25% race distance, a winner would get six points.

For races that ran beyond 25% but not 50%, the winner would get 13 points, and for races that ran for 50% but not 75%, then it would be 19 points. Anything more than 75% was full points.

With the Japanese GP running to 28 laps – just more than 52% – many had been under the impression that Verstappen would get 19 for his win, with Perez getting 14 for second and Leclerc 12 for third.

However, the wording of the regulation does not cover all occasions when races do not go to full distance.

Instead, it is specific that it only refers to races that have been stopped and cannot be restarted.

The FIA clarified: “The rules regarding the reduced points allocation (article 6.5) only apply in the event of race suspension that cannot be resumed, and therefore full points are awarded and Max Verstappen is world champion.”

Race Results – 28 of 53 laps 3h1m44.004s

1 Max Verstappen NED Oracle Red Bull Honda 0.000s
2 Sergio Perez MEX Oracle Red Bull Honda 27.066s
3 Charles Leclerc* MON Scuderia Ferrari 32.736s
4 Esteban Ocon FRA BWT Alpine F1 Team 39.685s
5 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas 40.326s
6 Sebastian Vettel GER Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant 46.358s
7 Fernando Alonso ESP BWT Alpine F1 Team 46.369s
8 George Russell GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas 47.661s
9 Nicholas Latifi CAN Williams Racing 70.143s
10 Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team 70.782s
11 Daniel Ricciardo AUS McLaren F1 Team 72.877s
12 Lance Stroll CAN Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant 73.904s
13 Yuki Tsunoda JPN Scuderia AlphaTauri 75.599s
14 Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team 86.016s
15 Valtteri Bottas FIN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 86.496s
16 Zhou Guanyu CHN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 87.043s
17 Pierre Gasly FRA Scuderia AlphaTauri 88.091s
18 Mick Schumacher GER Haas F1 Team 92.523s
DNF Alex Albon THA Williams Racing DNF
DNF Carlos Sainz ESP Scuderia Ferrari DNF

* Leclerc was handed a 5-second penalty after the race for cutting the final chicane.


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