Verstappen wins shortened Japanese GP to secure title

A shorter race and a rain delay couldn't prevent the Red Bull driving wrapping up the 2022 title at Suzuka

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 09: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari F1-75 during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090325 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen secured victory in wet conditions at Suzuka to take the 2022 Formula 1 drivers title, but it was a shortened Japanese Grand Prix following a lengthy red flag period.

Just 28 racing laps could be fitted in before the race clock ran out, with Charles Leclerc crossing the line second, and Sergio Perez in third.

However, it was Perez who was awarded second after Leclerc was given a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage while defended against the Mexican on the final lap of the race.

With the rain starting to get heavier as the race got underway, it was a chaotic first two laps as Sebastian Vettel dropped to the back of the field after he and Fernando Alonso banged wheels, while Guanyu Zhou spun.

Carlos Sainz also lost the rear of his car, spinning across the track and colliding with the barrier to bring out the safety car, while Alex Albon became the second retiree from the race moments later when his Williams lost power.

Pierre Gasly was forced into an early pitstop as Sainz’s crash sent an advertising banner across the track, which the Frenchman’s car collected, obscuring his view.

As the rain continued to fall, the race was red flagged, but Gasly was still off the back of the field, and while pushing to catch up with the safety car, he came across a recovery truck dealing with the Sainz incident.

The incident sparked debate during the red flag period, with concerns being raised over the presence of such a vehicle in poor visibility on a wet track, but also questions being asked about Gasly’s speed. The stewards confirmed they are investigating Gasly for speeding under red flag conditions.

More than two hours after racing was paused, the safety car led the field out of the pitlane again, with the cars lapping behind the safety car to see whether conditions had improved enough to allow racing to resume.

Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo were among the drivers to raise concerns about track conditions, particularly visibility issues caused by spray from the cars ahead, but despite this the safety car came into the pitlane, allowing the action the resume.

Because of the lengthy red flag period, just 40 minutes remained on the race clock when the green flag was shown. Vettel and Nicholas Latifi immediately came into the pitlane to switch onto intermediate tyres.

It was soon clear inters were the right tyre to be on, with the majority of the front runners coming in a couple of laps later, leaving Alonso, Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher in the top three.

Alonso and Ricciardo stopped on the following lap, but Haas continued to leave Schumacher running on the wets, banking on a safety car, but as his tyres began to wear he slipped down the order.

Stopping early proved to be a good move for Vettel and Latifi, who found themselves running sixth and eighth respectively after everyone had made their stops. While Latifi lost a place late on, the result saw he secure his first points finish of the season.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, Lewis Hamilton was putting pressure on Esteban Ocon as he looked to move up to fourth, while Perez started to close in on Leclerc.

As some drivers started to struggle on their tyres, Alonso came in for a second pitstop to ensure he finished the race on fresher tyres. The decision dropped him down the order three places, but he soon moved back in front of Lando Norris and Latifi, before passing George Russell on the last lap.

Perez had a couple of attempts as he tried to move ahead of Leclerc in the final laps of the race, but the Ferrari driver just had enough grip to keep the Red Bull behind, until he ran wide and failed to lose a place to Perez, earning him a five-second time penalty.

As well as costing Leclerc second place in the race, the penalty also ruled Leclerc out of the title race, ensuring Verstappen takes the crown for a second year in a row.

Provisional classification:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

4. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

6. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

8. George Russell (Mercedes)

9. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

10. Lando Norris (McLaren)

11. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

12. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

15. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)

16. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)

17. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

18. Mick Schumacher (Haas)


Alex Albon (Williams)

Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

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