Max Verstappen wins the chaotic Japanese Grand Prix in a commanding fashion. The Dutch driver maintained his lead at the start of the race after qualifying P1 and never looked back from there. Charles Leclerc finished the race at P2. However, an incident on the final lap where he gained an unfair advantage saw him getting a 5s penalty. This demoted Leclerc to P3. Since Verstappen needed to win the race with more than 8 points, it sealed his bid for the 2nd world driver championship crown. Sergio Perez finished P2 ahead of Leclerc.
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The race started in wet conditions.
Heavy rainfall occurred at the start of the race. Each car was put on full-wet tyres by the teams. Carlos Sainz was the first casualty of the challenging weather. His car aqua planned after just a few turns, and he lost control and smashed into the barriers. Alex Albon soon followed him when he suffered hydraulics failure. Pierre Gasly somehow managed to get an advertising board in front of his car. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel collided, resulting in a spin for Vettel onto the grass. The race was red-flagged after just three laps due to deteriorating conditions.
Pierre Gasly nearly missed the recovery vehicle.
Gasly went into the pits for a change of front wing. When he came out, the race was red-flagged. In his bid to catch the cars in front, Gasly was much faster than he should have been. At the same time, a recovery vehicle was on track, removing Sainz’s car from the way. Gasly got a big scare as he passed him closely at a speed of almost 200 km/h. The Frenchman was beside himself with anger and screamed on the radio to his team. “What is this tractor on track?” Gasly shouted on the team radio. “I passed next to it. This is unacceptable. Remember what has happened. Can’t believe this.”
The onboard video of Gasly passing the recovery vehicle is terrifying. Something needs to change. pic.twitter.com/ldwszWgG9K— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) October 9, 2022
Gasly was referring to the 2014 Japanese GP incident where Jules Bianchi lost his life in an accident after hitting the tractor. Bianchi suffered life-ending head injuries when he lost control of his car and smashed into the tractor that was recovering the Force India car of Adrian Sutil. The race director Charlie Whiting didn’t issue a safety car before allowing the tractor to come onto the track. Many drivers went onto Twitter during the red-flag phase and voiced their anger toward the FIA.
There was a 2-hour delay before the race resumed.
After more than 2 hours, the race resumed behind the safety car. The time left to complete the race was 45 minutes. The race saw only 28 laps of the planned 53 completed. Max Verstappen maintained his lead at the start and, from there on, went on to create significant gaps ahead of the rest of the field. Estaban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton provided the best action for the P4 position. Ocon blocked Lewis Hamilton’s attempt to overtake him. The French driver pulled a magnificent defense on Hamilton. The car’s straight-line speed limited Hamilton, so he could not find the few more km/h required to overtake Ocon.
Vettel and Alonso close finish
Sebastian Vettel made an incredible recovery drive and finished P6 ahead of Fernando Alonso. Vettel and Nicholas Latifi went for Intermediate tyres after the restart. Their faster lap times prompted the rest of the grid to change from wets to inters. Mick Schumacher was kept out on full wets by Haas. They hoped there would be another safety car and the German driver could benefit from it. However, this didn’t pan out as other cars overtook him from left, right and center. Ultimately Haas decided to call him into the pits and change to inters like others.
Latifi scored his first season points, finishing P9 behind George Russell. Lando Norris had an afternoon to forget as he got the last points scoring position, P10. The drivers who finished outside points were Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher, and Pierre Gasly.
How Verstappen won the driver’s title
In the later stages of the race, Verstappen was running away in the race. Charles Leclerc faced fierce competition from Sergio Perez for second place. Leclerc managed to keep Perez at bay the whole time. However, right before the end, Leclerc was forced right, and he went off the track. He rejoined the track ahead of Perez, but it looked like he gained an unfair advantage. Leclerc managed to cross the line ahead of Perez, but the stewards noted the incident.
Verstappen, at that time, didn’t have enough points to be officially confirmed world champion. During the post-race interview in the pitlane with Martin Brundle, the stewards announced a 5-second time penalty for Leclerc. The result means that Verstappen’s 113-point lead in the driver’s table is enough for him to win the Driver’s Championship.
FIA’s decision to award full points to Top 10 drivers
The governing body decided this because it was evident that all 53 laps wouldn’t be completed in time. The confusion regarding the number of points awarded resulted from a change to the sporting regulations in the wake of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix being abandoned due to torrential rain without any racing laps.
The half-point award under the 2021 regulations was the impetus to introduce a new sliding scale. However, the FIA took a step back from this rule and awarded all Top 10 drivers total points. Consequently, this decision resulted in Verstappen being awarded the 2022 world driver championship.