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Max Verstappen wins the Japanese Grand Prix and the World Championship. Charles Leclerc finished P3 after a five-second time penalty, making it a Red Bull 1-2.
Race control decided the Japanese Grand Prix would restart after chaotic opening laps that resulted in a red flag. The session was suspended due to the rain and Carlos Sainz’s retirement. This meant that there was less than hour out of the three hour window for the race to be completed.
All cars went out on track behind the Safety Cars on full wet-weather tyres. It was deemed that the race would restart with a rolling start procedure. For fans, this was a good decision as we all got the racing we wanted to see.
The second time lucky
The Safety Car pulled in as Max Verstappen kept the lead into Turn One. Drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi, all came into the pits on the restart to change onto intermediate tyres. It was then a drag race out of the pits between Vettel vs Latifi, but the German gets ahead.
Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari kept up with Verstappen, chasing the championship leader who was hoping to win the title this weekend.
Inters vs Wets
Whilst the rain eased a bit compared to earlier in the day, the track was still very wet with lots of spray disrupting visibility. However, those on intermediates were going a lot faster.
More and more drivers came into the pits. Red Bull decided to double stack Verstappen and Perez, putting them onto the intermediate tyres. They were followed by a Mercedes double stack as well, but George Russell felt that was “the worst decision” the team could have made. With all the pit stops, Alonso was then in the net lead of the race.
Haas, however, were “hoping for the Safety Car” as Mick Schumacher stayed out. He was then in third behind Daniel Ricciardo and Alonso. But soon, Schumacher was the only driver on track on wets as every other driver pitted.
Vettel’s final Suzuka
Suzuka is a track that Vettel loves, so much so that over the weekend he said he would be happy to come back for a one-off race at the Japanese circuit. In the first race this morning, before the red flag, Vettel was tapped by Alonso and spun. However, he managed to continue before the suspended session.
In the restart, he pitted early and that early pit stop was key. Vettel going onto the intermediates meant he could work his way through the field and with 28 minutes to go, the four-time world champion was in sixth, behind Lewis Hamilton. However, despite his great move to pit early, Alonso was closing in behind in P7.
As Vettel retires at the end of this season, this was his final Japanese Grand Prix, a race which has seen him have success before. This time, despite his spin in the first race, he finished in the points in sixth.
Hamilton qualified in an Alpine sandwich in sixth. Once he’d pitted for inters, with Esteban Ocon in front of him and Vettel behind him, Hamilton was focused on passing the Frenchman.
Hamilton was within one second behind Ocon, whose lap times were slower than the Brit. He attempted some overtakes but just didn’t quite have the speed.
Out of Spoon Curve, Hamilton tried again, but without DRS, he couldn’t get close enough to pass. His teammate, Russell however, has been making his way through the field, completing some overtakes at unusual places including Turn 6.
Ocon, who will be paired with Pierre Gasly next season, was defending against Hamilton exceptionally well. The Alpine of the Frenchman was the second fastest car in a speed-trap, which kept Hamilton behind.
On the final lap, Hamilton was gaining on Ocon but couldn’t quite get ahead so finished the race in fifth.
Great battle for P4 😮
Ocon is holding off Hamilton for now#JapaneseGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/6bTmloVohW
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 9, 2022
Verstappen had never led a lap at Suzuka before this weekend. On the restart, he pulled away from Leclerc and as the timer ticked down, he increased that gap to over five seconds. With Sainz out of the race, along with Alex Albon, Leclerc was in a Red Bull sandwich in second.
Uncertainty rose for Leclerc as he was 1.4 seconds slower than Perez behind him. He asked over the radio what would happen if he was to pits for fresher tyres. Unfortunately for him, if Leclerc did decide to box, he would lose five positions.
For Verstappen, everything was going smoothly as he was a second faster a lap than Leclerc. The Red Bull is certainly working for the Dutchman.
Whilst Leclerc was 19.9 seconds behind Verstappen with six minutes to go, Perez was right behind the Monegasque. The Mexican, who is in the championship fight, was right behind the Ferrari. However, he had similar issues to Hamilton as he lacked the extra speed needed to just push his car past.
The lap saw a close call between Leclerc and Perez as the two nearly made contact. However, Leclerc held him off. He then went off the track across the rumble strip and it was determined he went off the track. He finished in third.
Max Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix. Leclerc finished in second but was investigated for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. He received a five second time penalty, awarding Perez third place, making it a Red Bull 1-2.
His win today makes Verstappen World Champion in 2022 after full points were awarded as the race restarted.
So, Max Verstappen is a two-time World Champion.
1 – Verstappen
2 – Perez
3 – Leclerc
4 – Ocon
5 – Hamilton
6 – Vettel
7 – Alonso
8 – Russell
9 – Latifi
10 – Norris
11 – Ricciardo
12 – Stroll
13 – Tsunoda
14 – Magnussen
15 – Bottas
16 – Zhou (fastest lap)
17 – Gasly
18 – Schumacher
DNF: Sainz and Albon
Headline Feature Image: GettyImages