Max Verstappen won the rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka to become the 2022 Formula 1 world champion.
A crash at the start red-flagged the race for more than two hours, with Verstappen beating Verstappen by half a minute as the race continued. Charles Leclerc finished second on the track and was given a five-second time penalty after the race, leaving him third behind Sergio Perez.
Verstappen won his second world championship with full points despite completing just over half the distance of the first race.
The field lined up on the grid on medium tires for a standing start, with Pierre Gasly changing parts on his AlphaTauri before starting from the pit lane. By the time the lights went out, Leclerc had a better break than Verstappen and was a little closer to the inside with one lap to go, but Verstappen held tight to the outside to maintain his lead.
Visibility in the pack was close to zero. Finally, Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Aquaplan went off the track through turn 12 and into the barrier. Fortunately, the field after all missed the Ferrari on the left side of the track. Shortly after Alexander Albon passed the Ferrari, he retired due to a loss of water pressure after the previous contact.
The safety car was deployed with Verstappen leading Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. With drivers complaining of dangerously low visibility, the race was red flagged and all drivers returned to the pits.
Gasly suffered front wing damage on the opening lap and was angered by the recovery vehicle as he treacherously passed Sainz’s battered Ferrari. The stewards investigated Gasly for speeding in a red flag situation.
He was over an hour and a half late as race control waited for conditions to improve. Finally, it was announced that the race will continue with 50 minutes remaining. The field took to the track again on wet tyres, with the race finally restarting with 40 minutes remaining.
Verstappen led from Leclerc, Perez, Ocon and Lewis Hamilton in fifth. Sebastian Vettel and Nicolas Laffey both switched to medium tires as the race continued. After two rounds of racing it was clear that the mediums were the fastest tire to light.
Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Ocon and Russell went for tricks, while Fernando Alonso stayed on wet tyres, as did Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher. Alonso retook the lead for a lap before tearing up for the Allies, handing the lead to Schumacher, who was quickly overtaken by Verstappen, then Leclerc and Perez.
As he regained the lead, Verstap quickly carved out a healthy advantage over Leclerc behind him. Perez began to slowly chip away at the Ferrari driver in front of him, but the drivers began to struggle as their center tire fell off.
With just over eight minutes left, Alonso dropped out of seventh and joined tenth for a second mid-set. However, the rest of the field stayed on the tires they used.
As the final minutes ticked away, Verstappen continued to dominate the race. At the end of the period, Perez was behind Leclerc and pushed the Ferrari into second place. There was confusion as some teams waited for an extra lap after the timeout, but the checkered flag flew as Verstappen crossed the line after the time was zero.
About half a minute after the winner, Leclerc and Perez were fighting hard for second place in the last lap, but Leclerc missed the chicane at the end of the lap and joined ahead of Perez, preventing the Red Bull driver from crossing the line. Leclerc left the track and gained a lasting advantage and was handed a five-second penalty by the stewards, relegating Perez to second on the podium.
Full championship points were awarded for the race, Leclerc’s penalty meant Verstappen was now unbeaten in points and world champion.
Out on the podium, Esteban Ocon finished fourth, holding off Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. Sebastian Vettel was sixth ahead of Alonso, who returned to where he was before pitting for new tyres. George Russell was eighth and Nicolas Latifi scored his first points of the year in ninth. Lando Norris rounded out the top ten.
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2022 Japanese Grand Prix reaction
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