Confusion reigned at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix over whether Max Verstappen was confirmed as 2022 World Champion or not.
In a race that was essentially condensed to around 40 minutes because of heavy rain at Suzuka, Verstappen’s 12th win of the season was never in doubt as he pulled further and further clear of his rivals.
The only question was whether the Red Bull driver could clinch a second World Championship with four races to spare, Charles Leclerc the only man who could stop him if he held off Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez for second place.
But at the final chicane, just when Leclerc looked to have done enough to take the title race on to the United States Grand Prix, he ran off track under pressure from Perez and received a five-second time penalty from the stewards having been deemed to have gained an advantage.
That was enough to give Verstappen the championship, even though it was not immediately apparent due to confusion over how many points would be awarded for the shortened race.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 9, 2022
The confirmation was eventually given by Johnny Herbert as the parc ferme interviews progressed – although it had initially been announced the championship was not yet done and dusted.
“And the championship obviously didn’t quite come your way this time around,” said Herbert when he interviewed Verstappen initially, with the 25-year-old answering by saying he was “just very happy we had a race” because the grand prix had been under threat after being red-flagged following a number of incidents following the original start.
But just over a minute later, after interviewing Perez, Herbert had clearly received the news in his earpiece that Verstappen was indeed the champion.
The confusion surrounded the criteria under which points would be awarded. Rather than 50% for the amount of the race completed, it was decided it had “resumed” and therefore was eligible for a full points allocation – putting the Dutchman beyond Perez and Leclerc’s reach, 113 ahead with 112 available.
“Well, it seems Charles got a five-second penalty for going through the chicane,” said Herbert as the stewards’ verdict came in, the Briton then calling Verstappen back over from a chat with Leclerc.
“Max, I think it has maybe changed for you. Come back in. Charles got a five-second penalty there after the little sort of race we had with Sergio…World Champion!”
That was not the end of the ‘is he or isn’t he’ scenario, however, for in the cooldown room before the podium ceremony, Verstappen still appeared unconvinced his second title was in the bag.
He spoke to that effect with his fellow drivers before being assured by an official that yes, he was indeed the 2022 World Champion.