Verstappen wins Japanese GP and F1 title
By Mat Coch
Sunday 9th October, 2022 - 7:37pm
Max Verstappen has won a wet and wild Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, though confusion surrounded whether or not he’d won the title.
The Dutchman cantered to victory though there was confusion over whether the championship had been resolved.
That was only resolved after the fact once the FIA clarified that full points were awarded and, therefore Verstappen has sealed his second world crown.
Sergio Perez finished second after a five-second penalty post-race dropped the Ferrari driver to third behind Perez.
The race featured a lengthy red flag and doubts that it was ever get underway properly, while controversy rose when a service vehicle was sent out while F1 cars remained on track.
At the race start, Verstappen was slow to get away, losing out to Leclerc off the line but muscling his way back through around the outside through the opening two corners.
Sebastian Vettel had a spin in the opening corner, dropping to the rear of the field but was able to carry on.
Midway around the opening lap, Sainz crashed out exiting the hairpin.
Alex Albon has also pulled off the road before the end of the opening lap, while Pierre Gasly picked up an advertising hoarding and was forced into the pits to have it removed.
The Safety Car was deployed as a result, before the race was red flagged with the field on the second lap.
Cars finally exited the lane at 16:15, leaving just 45 minutes of allowable race time left on the three-hour clock.
As the Safety Car headed the field, it was compulsory for all drivers to have the full wet tyres.
The cars were released with five laps completed.
In the field, visibility was a concern though track conditions were arguably good enough for intermediate tyres.
Verstappen headed a spaced-out field, while Vettel and Nicholas Latifi took to the lane to swap for the green-walled tyres.
The German enjoyed an immediate pace improvement over those on full wets.
Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas boxed at the end of the following lap while the leaders were in on Lap 7.
Red Bull double-stacked its drivers while on track Fernando Alonso headed Daniel Ricciardo.
Mercedes did likewise with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, much to the complaints of the latter.
Mick Schumacher ran third, still on the full wets, the Haas driver powerless to hold Verstappen back as they began Lap 9.
As he did so, he reclaimed the lead as Alonso and Ricciardo pitted, dropping down the order.
Haas was gambling on a Safety Car, hoping to maintain track position despite running on the slower tyre.
The German was slipping down the order, dropping to sixth by Lap 10 as he came under pressure from Vettel.
He finally pitted after 11 laps, the last in the field to make the switch to intermediates.
It left Verstappen leading Leclerc, Perez, and Esteban Ocon at the head of the field, with the top 10 completed by Lewis Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Latifi, and Norris.
Inside the final 20 minutes of the race, which had long gone time certain, Alonso was on a charge, while Verstappen and pulled 11.1s clear of Leclerc out front.
Hamilton found himself tucked up behind Ocon, who placed the Alpine perfectly to hold his rival behind.
The Mercedes lacked top speed; he could live with the Frenchman ahead but was powerless to draw alongside.
Even with better traction there was no way through, the Alpine’s top speed enough to see him inch away and maintain his place.
With eight minutes remaining, Alonso rolled the dice on a fresh set of intermediate tyres, rejoining in 10th.
Guanyu Zhou had stopped earlier and was enjoying strong pace; six seconds faster than team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Having reeled in Leclerc, Perez found himself stuck behind the Ferrari just as Hamilton was stuck behind Ocon.
Verstappen won comfortably while Leclerc held on narrowly to take second ahead of Perez.
A poor exit from the final chicane almost cost the Ferrari driver, the Monegaque driver going deep and running over the run off before defending aggressively as Perez looked to scramble by.
Race control noted the incident, announcing the stewards would investigate it post-race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
It was Verstappen’s 12th win of the season.
Fourth was Ocon who held off Hamilton by 0.6s, with Vettel and Alonso who were split by 0.011s at the line.
The top 10 was completed by Russell, Latifi, and Norris.
Results to follow