Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen claimed victory for Red Bull in the Japanese Grand Prix, and took the 2022 world title, after a dramatic late penalty for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc put the championship beyond doubt here on Sunday.
Verstappen, who retained the world title, won a restarted race amid persistent rain at Suzuka, with Leclerc initially looking set to finish second. But the Ferrari driver was penalised for cutting the chicane on the final lap as he defended from the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez, according to formula1.com.
The dramatic points swing means Verstappen heads to the United States Grand Prix, and the final four races of the season, with an unassailable lead over Perez and Leclerc — confirming him as champion.
The race originally got underway as planned, 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 the other Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz crashing out.
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.
With just under 50 minutes on the race clock, the Safety Car led the field out of the pit lane for a planned rolling start, which was soon carried out and released the pack of cars — all of them this time forced to run wets, rather than having the choice to use intermediates.
From there, Verstappen mastered the switch from wets to intermediates as the track surfaced gradually improved and edged away at the head of the field, eventually crossing the line more than 20 seconds clear.
Leclerc was on course to finish second, and to keep the title race alive, but he was penalised for cutting the final chicane on the final lap to keep a charging Perez at bay, with the points difference meaning Verstappen sealed the crown.
Esteban Ocon took a fourth for Alpine after some fierce defending against Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, with Sebastian Vettel recovering from a clash with Fernando Alonso at the initial start to take P6 on his final Suzuka appearance.
Japanese Grand Prix race results:
Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 3:01:44.004; Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +27.066s; 3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +31.763s; 4. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +39.685s; 5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +40.326s.