By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA, Suzuka
Max Verstappen claimed his second Formula One drivers’ championship in confusing and dramatic fashion at Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull prepare for news of whether they breached the sport’s budget cap last season.
As rain lashed Suzuka, a delay of over two hours followed an early red flag as drivers and team principals fumed after a recovery vehicle was dispatched onto the circuit and was involved in a near-miss with the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
When the action resumed, confusion reigned as to whether full points would be awarded in a race where the time limit would expire before the lap count.
That meant, even when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was handed a five-second time penalty for gaining an advantage on the final lap to promote the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez into second place behind Verstappen, it was unclear whether the Dutchman had retained his title.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) October 9, 2022
Only when being interviewed post-race was Verstappen’s dominant 2022 championship win confirmed – but the 25-year-old could at least see humour in a situation which had seen a lot of people, including the man himself, scratching their heads.
“To be honest, I don’t mind that it was a little bit confusing,” Verstappen said.
“I find it actually quite funny, because at the end of the day, it’s not going to change the result.
“When I crossed the line I didn’t believe that we would have won the title right there because I also didn’t know if we’re going to get full points or not.
“I don’t think everyone was 100 per cent sure at the end. During the race I had no clue what they were going to decide with the points.
“The main plan was to win the race but once I crossed the line I was thinking, ‘that was an amazing race, good points again but not world champion yet’.
“Then Tom (Wood, FIA media delegate) came to me and said that I was world champion and then suddenly people were saying, ‘no you still need a point’.
“So it was a bit weird but eventually we had enough points so then we were world champions again.”
Full points were awarded because the race had resumed after earlier being red-flagged and the regulations state that, in that scenario, the half-points system used if a race does not restart is not applied.
For Verstappen, it was a second successive title win which came in unusual circumstances following his victory in Abu Dhabi last year.
Red Bull went into this weekend under a cloud, with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, delaying its findings into whether any of the grid’s teams have broken the financial rules until Monday.
The team has faced unproven allegations that they exceeded F1’s costs cap of #114million last term – bringing into the spotlight the legitimacy of Verstappen’s already controversial 2021 championship win over Lewis Hamilton.