Japanese GP 2022: Verstappen makes history after securing his second title in Suzuka

Max Verstappen (Red Bull) has taken his second Formula One title with a crushing victory at the Japanese F1 GP 2022. The chaotic race was marked by the rain, the indecision of the FIA and an interruption of more than two hours. 

It took a few moments at the end of the race for Verstappen to receive confirmation of his crowning as race authorities deliberated on how to interpret FIA’s somehow confusing regulations regarding the distribution of points.

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) came second behind the Dutchman but lost that place to a five-second penalty. The young Monegasque skipped the last corner of the final lap in his efforts to fend Checo Perez (Red Bull) off. The ensuing sanction gave second place to the Mexican driver and a new 1-2 to Red Bull. 

This has been a historic day for the Flying Dutchman. His twelfth victory of the season (Saudi Arabia, Emilia-Romagna, Miami, Spain, Azerbaijan, Canada , France, Hungary, BelgiumHolland, Italy & Japan), 32nd in F1, has awarded him the second crown of his career, and to make celebrations even sweeter, this has happened at the home race of Red Bull’s engine supplier and main partner, Honda.

Chaos on opening lap 

On the opening lap, a heavy downpour flooded the track and Carlos Sainz in 4th position behind Red Bull´s Max & Checo and his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc suffered an accident which resulted in the race being interrupted. Then, in a reckless decision, a tractor was deployed on track to remove Carlos’ vehicle when cars were still circulating and Pierre Gasly‘s car (Alpha Tauri), which had started from the pit lane, nearly crashed into it. 

Moments later, a safety car was ordered onto the track, and the red flag was waved two laps after that. Cars then headed to the pit lane as the clouds continued to discharge vigorously. 

Restart of the race… two hours later

The race could not be resumed for two hours and ten minutes. On restarting, the cars joined the track behind a safety car with Mad Max, ahead of Leclerc and Pérez. Following regulations, the battle was on again two laps later with everyone on extreme wet tyres 

Verstappen, at the lead, immediately set an unattainable pace for the rest of contenders. Only Leclerc could barely follow in his wake. Perez, for his part, at a certain distance from the leading duo, was concentrating on not losing too much ground. 

F1 rules establish that GPs should last no longer than three hours from the original start, and since 140 minutes had already passed, only 40 minutes remained until the end.

As the asphalt quickly dried out with the passing of the cars, some brave drivers such as Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo Racing) or Nicholas Latifi (Williams) changed their extreme rain tyres for intermediate ones. Copying the move, Max, Perez, Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell (Mercedes) followed suit one lap after that.  

Verstappen escaped

Alonso, on the other hand, stayed put at the lead of the Japanese GP with seven seconds over Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), who was also heading to the pits. With 33 minutes to go and on the third lap since the restart, Max regained the lead ahead of Leclerc, five seconds behind. Verstappen had increased his advantage by 1.5 seconds in just one lap. 

From that moment on the Dutchman escaped ahead comfortably and Leclerc could do nothing to stop him. In fact, the latter watched with concern as Pérez closed in on him before the end.

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With seriously degraded tyres, Leclerc suffered a suffocating chase from his Mexican rival over the last laps. In the final meters, Leclerc managed to get ahead after going off track and cutting part of the corner to cross the finish line in second place ahead of Perez. 

A subsequent sanction, however, demoted him to third place. Twenty-seven seconds earlier, Verstappen had entered the exclusive club of eleven drivers that have won two consecutive world titles. 

Images of Japanese F1 GP 2022: Red Bull Racing.

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