Verstappen crowned World Champion as he sails to victory in Suzuka

Verstappen crowned World Champion as he sails to victory in Suzuka

October 9, 2022

Max Verstappen secured his second World Drivers’ Title in Suzuka following a wet and rain-interrupted race, which saw the Dutchman cruise to a comfortable win yet again in a season that has been dominated by the Red Bull driver.

Behind Verstappen, it was Charles Leclerc who crossed the line second, holding off Sergio Pérez in a last-lap tussle. However, the Monégasque was handed a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, which meant it was a 1-2 for Red Bull with Leclerc finishing third after his penalty, behind Pérez.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finished a stunning fourth, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, in his final Japanese Grand Prix, was sixth ahead of Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. It was Lando Norris who took the final points place.

There was chaos after the race, however, as to whether Verstappen was or wasn’t the World Champion, with confusion over the points awarded. Verstappen needed to outscore Leclerc by eight points, and with the race being awarded full points and Leclerc getting a five-second penalty, the Dutchman was eventually crowned World Champion after a lot of confusion.

Unlike his first title, which went down to the wire, Verstappen’s second World Championship has been a lot less controversial and a lot more dominating. He has won an incredible 12 races in the season so far and is looking more and more likely to break Sebastian Vettel’s record of 13 wins in a season.

With the Championship decided, Verstappen will now look to assert his dominance and break a few more records going ahead. 

It was a chaotic start at the Japanese Grand Prix. Up front, it was Charles Leclerc who got the better start off the line rather than pole-sitter Max Verstappen. Leclerc almost took the lead from Verstappen going into the first turn, but Verstappen managed to hold his lead.

A bit behind the leaders, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel also had a good start from P9, but the German was hit by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and, with the track being extremely wet, it was difficult for either driver to understand where the braking point was.

Another driver who had an incident was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who spun in the wet weather and hit the barriers, which effectively ended his race. The drama wasn’t over, though, as there was another retiree: Williams’ Alex Albon, who suffered a technical issue; his gearbox failed.

With two drivers out on track and the rain getting heavier with visibility becoming an issue, Race Control red flagged the race. Racing resumed after a delay of more than two hours, with Verstappen leading from Leclerc, while Sergio Pérez was in third ahead of Esteban Ocon. The race now was a timed race, though, as it was in Singapore, instead of a lap-based one. 

With the track still wet, Vettel and Nicholas Latifi immediately pitted for the intermediate tyres – a switch that proved successful immediately. Vettel was flying on the wet track and set the fastest lap as soon as he was out. With that information, the rest of the grid followed suit.

With around half an hour left, it was Verstappen pulling away from Leclerc, with Pérez chasing down the Ferrari driver. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, was stuck behind Esteban Ocon. The seven-time World Champion was trying to pull out every move in the book to get past the Frenchman but was unsuccessful.

As the track dried up, Verstappen kept getting further and further away from the rest of the grid. With 15 minutes left, he was more than 12 seconds clear of Leclerc. 

With just over five minutes left on the clock, while Verstappen was cruising to another win, it was Fernando Alonso in P7 who pitted for a second time when Alpine realised that George Russell was getting too close to Alonso and would take that position. Alonso re-joined in P9 and was easily the fastest on the track on his new set. Inside three laps, he was already behind Russell, and this time the Spaniard breezed past him, chasing down his old title rival Vettel for P6.

Up front, Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix by more than 26 seconds, which was just the perfect example of his domination this entire season, especially given that there were only 28 laps of racing in Suzuka.

Behind Verstappen, Pérez was hounding down Leclerc. The Mexican almost got past the Ferrari driver on the final corner of the final lap, but Leclerc pushed him wide and then went off the track and kept position, which eventually saw the Ferrari driver get a post-race penalty, because of which he was demoted from P2 to P3.

Alonso, meanwhile, had an almost picture-perfect finish with Vettel, finishing just a couple of thousandths behind the German. 

With Verstappen’s win and the World Title secured, the Constructors’ Championship, which is still up for grabs, should be wrapped it up by Red Bull in Austin should they win. Ferrari’s third-place finish just about helps them keep a slight lead in that second-place fight with Mercedes, with the German team being 67 points behind the Scuderia.

Alpine’s strong weekend sees them leapfrog McLaren to regain the fourth position in the table after falling behind in Singapore. Vettel’s strong points finish for Aston Martin has the Silverstone-based team creeping up behind Alfa Romeo for the sixth place in the table, and the British team stand a chance now to overtake Alfa Romeo, which was far from possible at the start of the season.

After an eventful Japanese Grand Prix, which saw a lot of action and a lot of rain, racing takes a week’s break before we race once again in Austin on October 23. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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