Max Verstappen reflects on ‘weird, funny’ circumstances around title confirmation

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen waving as he is surrounded by photographers. Japan October 2022

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen waving as he is surrounded by photographers. Japan October 2022

Max Verstappen went from being a point short in Japan to winning the title to confusion over whether he had to officially being crowned the 2022 F1 World Champion, all in the space of less than 10 minutes.

The up side is that the Red Bull driver found the confusion “actually quite funny”.

Verstappen lined up on the sodden Suzuka grid knowing a race win and a fastest lap point would guarantee he’d retain the World title.

But the race was red flagged after two laps following a chaotic opening that included a big crash for Carlos Sainz. Restarted some two hours later, it was a timed event with Verstappen leading from start to finish and covering a total of 28 laps.

That, according to just about everyone in the paddock, meant he was a point short of the title as he only scored 19 for the win given that more than 50 per cent but less than 75 per cent of the race was covered.

Minutes later it emerged that full points had been awarded but no one was saying why, so most of the paddock again said he was a point short. Then the FIA confirmed that it was in fact full points as the sliding scale didn’t apply given the rule includes the words “cannot be resumed” and the race was stopped and started.

Verstappen is the 2022 World Champion.

Explaining the events as they unfolded for him, he said: “During the race, I had no clue what they were going to decide with the points, the main target was to win the race.

“But yeah, once I crossed the line, I was like, ‘OK, that was an amazing race. Good points again, but not World Champion yet’.

“Then I did my interview after the race, and then suddenly, my mechanics started to cheer and I was like: ‘What’s going on?’ And then I realised that Checo was second instead of Charles.

“But I still didn’t know if it was full points, half points or whatever is 75 per cent. I don’t know how you do it.

“But then of course, you read through the rules. And Tom [Wood, FIA Media Delegate] came to me and he said that I was the World Champion. So then we celebrated.

“And then suddenly people were telling me ‘no, you’re still missing a point’. So, it was like: ‘Oh, that’s amazing. That’s a bit weird.’

“But then eventually we had enough points so then we were World Champion again!”

A chuckle from the 2022 F1 World Champion

The 25-year-old found the whole thing rather amusing as it also factored in a five-second time penalty for Charles Leclerc.

Had Leclerc not been penalised and full points were still awarded, his P2 would have meant Verstappen was a point short.

“To be honest I don’t mind that it was a little bit confusing, I find it actually quite funny,” said Verstappen. “Because at the end of the day, it’s not going to change, right? The result?

“I mean, when I crossed the line, it was anyway, not enough, even if you would give full points.

“So, in that scenario, you know, wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Too few rules isn’t good, neither is too many

His team boss Christian Horner, while pleased with the happy surprise, concedes the rules need to be looked at.

Verstappen agrees.

“These are really complex situations with the weather, the amount of laps and then there’s a difference between if you finish the race or the race gets red flagged early on and then you can’t continue,” he said.

“And there is of course, a difference between the two.

“So yeah, I do think that if you don’t write enough rules, it’s not good. If you write too many rules, also not good. It’s always really hard to find a middle ground, I think.”

Read more: Max Verstappen learns of F1 title win in most chaotic way possible