Photo by motorsport.com
Max Verstappen has been completely dominant this season, pulling away from the competition many times throughout the season despite lower starting positions and Ferrari’s staggering improvement with the new car.
Now, he has left no doubt as to who the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion is in 2022 as he clinched his second-consecutive world title; this time with much less controversy. After winning on Sunday during a wet and red-flagged Japanese Grand Prix, Verstappen has earned his 12th victory this season, one behind Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) for the all-time record of wins in a season.
TWO-TIME WORLD CHAMPION!!!#2TheMax #F1 pic.twitter.com/eOlI6B6un1
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 9, 2022
However, the circumstances of Verstappen winning the title was muddled in confusion. The race was red-flagged on Lap 3 after rain at the Suzuka International Circuit in Japan picked up after a Carlos Sainz crash one lap earlier.
After over two hours of waiting, the race resumed in the rain and Verstappen dominated the race to beat Charles Leclerc over 26 seconds. On the final lap, Leclerc was attempting to hold off Sergio Perez when he spun and went off the track, using the shortcut to get back in front of Perez.
The FIA handed Leclerc a five-second time penalty immediately after the race, bumping Perez up to second place and dropping Leclerc to third, giving Red Bull Racing their fifth 1-2 finish of the season. Although, because the race only ran 28 laps, it was presumed that only 75% of the points would be awarded to the drivers. This would have meant that Verstappen would not have gained eight more points than Leclerc and six more than Perez.
Alas, because of an obscure rule that only suspended races that can’t be resumed award partial points, all drivers got full points under the new regulations, therefore awarding Verstappen with the championship.
FIA: "The rules regarding the reduced points allocation (article 6.5) only apply in the event of race suspension that cannot be resumed, and therefore full points are awarded and Max Verstappen is World Champion."
There we have it! #F1 #JapaneseGP
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) October 9, 2022
Outside of this, when the race resumed, all drivers had to start on all wet tires before all teams could make decisions on whether to pit for intermediates. Vettel, who spun on the first lap, and Nicholas Latifi, who started in 19th place, were the first to take new tires and started gaining places rapidly as the rest of field changed their tires.
This decision paid off as Vettel took home sixth place in his final race at his favorite track in F1. Fernando Alonso, who took fresh intermediates over the final couple laps, nearly caught Vettel but lost by 0.01 seconds on a drag race at the finish line.
As for Latifi, he earned two points with a ninth-place finish, gaining his first points of the 2022 season. He was the only driver to have zero points before Sunday’s race and is now tied with reserve driver Nyck de Vries for 20th in the WDC standings.
Esteban Ocon held off Lewis Hamilton for fourth place, his best finish of the 2022 season. Hamilton and Mercedes teammate George Russell took home fifth and eighth place respectively.
Lando Norris took home the final point. With these results, Alpine retook fourth place in the World Constructors’ Championship by 13 points over McLaren.
This is where I stray from a traditional recap to a pure opinion section.
When the race was red-flagged, Pierre Gasly was trying to get his car to pit road when there was A TRACTOR on the track that the French driver nearly missed. Keep in mind, eight years ago, Jules Bianchi lost his life after colliding with a similar tractor in the rain at Suzuka. Look at this tweet and notice how close Gasly is to the tractor.
I cannot believe what I've just seen.
— Matt Gallagher (@MattyWTF1) October 9, 2022
If it’s hard to see, that’s the point. While faint lights can be barely seen in the photo, Gasly barely saw it in the wet conditions while driving. That is unacceptable and that could have caused a life-threatening accident for Gasly.
He was understandably livid as were many drivers, team principals and fans.
How can we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on track?
We lost Jules because of that mistake.
What happened today is totally unacceptable!!!!!
I hope this is the last time ever I see a crane on track!
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) October 9, 2022
The FIA have been under so much scrutiny and controversy for the last year and it keeps getting worse. Gasly could have been killed and the fact that Sky Sports pundits and the FIA were blaming Gasly for going too fast is upsetting. Who cares about the speed of the car in those conditions when that tractor should not have entered the track until all cars were safe on pit road.
It is so upsetting that this happened and there needs to be an investigation on this matter to prompt change immediately. I feel for the Bianchi family today as they had to relive what happened to Jules eight years ago.
Jules Bianchi’s father on Instagram…
“No respect for the life of the driver no respect for Jules memory” pic.twitter.com/TfxxsE7JMw
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) October 9, 2022
For now, the 2022 Formula 1 season will head to the Americas for the next three races. First up will be the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Oct. 22 at 3:00 p.m. EST.