Max Verstappen was crowned the 2022 Formula 1 World Champion on Sunday after winning a rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix, held at the Suzuka Circuilt.
It means the Red Bull Racing driver is now a two-time World Champion, with his maiden title coming in 2021 after a controversial victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Impressively, the second title, like the first, came in a season in which Verstappen didn’t always have the fastest car.
Given his points lead in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship, there was little doubt Verstappen would eventually score the title. However, it came a little earlier than expected after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was on track to finish second in Japan and as a result delay Verstappen his title, cut through a chicane on the final lap and was given a five-second penalty that dropped him to third. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez then moved into second place.
Despite heavy rain, the race started as normal, with Verstappen on pole and Leclerc also at the front of the grid. However, after two laps and a series of incidents that included Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Alexander Albon both spinning and crashing out at the start, the race was red-flagged.
After a lengthy delay, the race finally resumed with a rolling start but with only 50 minutes remaining. With the conditions drying up, many drivers chose to pit for medium firmness tires, including race leaders Verstappen and Leclerc around lap seven, with Verstappen emerging fourth and Leclerc sixth.
A lap later, Verstappen passed Haas’ Mick Schumacher to take the lead, while Leclerc had overtaken Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou to go fourth. Leclerc eventually climbed to second in the ninth lap but by then Verstappen already had a decent gap that only continued to grow.
Perez also managed to catch up to Leclerc, who cut through the chicane on the final lap attempting to defend second position, for which the Ferrari driver was penalized. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finished fourth after managing to hold off Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Lewis Hamilton, who took fifth. Notably, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel recovered from an opening-lap clash with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso to finish sixth.
Following the weekend’s action, Verstappen now enjoys an unbeatable lead in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship with 366 points. However, the battle for second is still very much alive, with Perez currently in second with 253 points and Leclerc third with 252 points. The battle for the Constructors’ Championship is also alive, albeit barely, with Red Bull sitting on 619 points, versus the 454 of Ferrari and 387 of Mercedes.
The next race on the calendar is the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 23.
Below are the full results from the 2022 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix:
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
2) Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing +27.066 seconds
3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari +31.763 seconds
4) Esteban Ocon, Alpine +39.685 seconds
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz AMG +40.326 seconds
6) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin +46.358 seconds
7) Fernando Alonso, Alpine +46.369 seconds
8) George Russell, Mercedes-Benz AMG +47.661 seconds
9) Nicholas Latifi, Williams +70.143 seconds
10) Lando Norris, McLaren +70.782 seconds
11) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren +72.877 seconds
12) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin +73.904 seconds
13) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri +75.599 seconds
14) Kevin Magnussen, Haas +86.016 seconds
15) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo +86.496 seconds
16) Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo +87.043 seconds
17) Mick Schumacher, Haas +92.523 seconds
18) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri +108.091 seconds
NC) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari – DNF
NC) Alex Albon, Williams – DNF
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