Race: Max Verstappen crowned World Champion after winning chaotic Japan GP

Michelle Foster
Race winner Max Verstappen fist pump. Imola April 2022

Max Verstappen is the 2022 F1 World Champion, Formula 1 declaring the Japanese GP to be a full points race despite only 29 laps being covered.

As the rain came down in the build-up to Sunday’s grand prix, the action got underway on a wet track with first lap carnage – two DNFs and two spins – resulting in a red flag.

After a stoppage of more than two hours, the grand prix resumed with 40 minutes on the clock and Verstappen in a race against time to wrap up the World title.

He needed 37 laps of racing for full points to be awarded but with only 29 covered in total, it was points column three, 19 for the win, so it looked as if win number 12 was not enough to hand him the title with Sergio Perez second and Charles Leclerc P3 after a late penalty.

One point separated him from the World title but then F1 announced that he had won the World title, declaring the Japanese Grand Prix to be a full points race as it was restarted.

For the second week in a row Formula 1 had a wet race, the field lining up on intermediate tyres but with the conditions borderline for full wets.

After some debate Race Control declared a standing start, Leclerc pulling away better than Verstappen only for the Red Bull driver to find grip and speed, and by the time they hit the first corner, he was P1. Leclerc second ahead of Perez, Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel went spinning, “I got hit by Alonso”, Sainz went aquaplaning into the barrier and out of the race, Alex Albon’s Williams died on him, Pierre Gasly was driving with a piece of advertising board as his new front wing, and Zhou Guanyu also spun. Safety Car… red flag.

Gasly was seen raging in the AlphaTauri garage, the driver visibly angry. Replays showed he had passed a recovery vehicle on the track, the driver just metres from it in poor visibility. “This is unacceptable!”

With the conditions improving, Race Control announced a 2:50pm restart only to suspend that… the waiting game and the countdown clock continued with a 5pm cut-off time. Race Control finally announced a 4:15pm start, the drivers leaving the pits on full wets behind the Safety Car.

From “not too bad” to “better” to “pretty good” most of the drivers seemed happy with the conditions, although those further behind like Valtteri Bottas reported visibility was “poor”. Daniel Ricciardo said the conditions weren’t “too bad” but that visibility was a big issue.

Race Control deemed the conditions to be okay, and declared a “rolling start” with 40 minutes of racing. Verstappen lead ahead of Leclerc, the two pulling away from Perez, while Vettel and Nicholas Latifi at the back of the field immediately gambled on inters.

That prompted others to pit for inters, Mick Schumacher leading the grand prix as Haas kept him out, telling him they were hoping for a Safety Car. Verstappen was P2 ahead of Leclerc, but they made short work of passing the German, who plummeted down the order before Haas finally pitted him for inters.

Back at the front Verstappen pulled away from Leclerc, the reigning World Champion showing no signs of trouble on the slippery surface. Leclerc in turn ran comfortably ahead of Perez who had a gap to P4, Ocon holding off Lewis Hamilton. Vettel, after his early tyre gamble, was up to P6 with 20 minutes remaining.

Hamilton and Ocon put on a thrilling battle as the Mercedes driver tried time and time again to pass Ocon but the Alpine’s straight-line speed was equal to the W13’s. Ahead of them Perez closed in on Leclerc, who was struggling with worn tyres, as was Alonso who took the gamble to pit for fresh inters with 10 minutes on the clock.

As Verstappen stormed to the victory, his 12th of the season, taking the chequered flag ahead of Leclerc and Perez, the Mexican driver unable to make a pass on the Ferrari despite sitting on his rear wing. Leclerc though was handed a five-second post-race penalty for an infringement in his battle with Perez, the latter elevated to P2 and Verstappen taking the title.

Ocon was fourth ahead of Hamilton, followed by Vettel, Alonso, George Russell, Latifi and Lando Norris. It was Latifi’s first points of the season.

Result

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +27.066
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +31.763
4 Esteban OCON Alpine +39.685
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +40.326
6 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin +46.358
7 Fernando ALONSO Alpine +46.369
8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +47.661
9 Nicholas LATIFI William s+70.143
10 Lando NORRIS McLaren +70.782
11 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren +72.877
12 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +73.904
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +75.599
14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +86.016
15 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +86.496
16 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +87.043
17 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +88.091
18 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 Team +92.523

Did not finish

Alex Albon Williams car failure lap 1
Carlos Sainz Ferrari crash lap 1