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Verstappen achieves his second F1 title in a confusing and eventful race in Japan

Winner of a Japanese Grand Prix interrupted for around two hours due to the rain that fell this Sunday at the Suzuka circuit, the Dutchman Max Verstappen was declared Formula 1 world champion in general confusion after a penalty to his Monegasque rival Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) shortly after the end of the race.

At the end of a race that had been interrupted on the third lap of the first start due to weather conditions and two retirements, Verstappen (Red Bull), after a second start more than two hours later, crossed the finish line ahead of Leclerc and his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez (Red Bull).

But Leclerc, second in the World Cup, was finally penalized five seconds and lost his place to Pérez.

This change of positions allowed the 25-year-old Dutchman to be crowned world champion for the second consecutive season.

At first, Verstappen himself assumed that he would have to wait for another race to become world champion.

“The championship would have been great to have won here, but we have another chance at the next race,” he said, already thinking about the United States Grand Prix.

But at that point, Leclerc received a five-second penalty for running off the track on the last lap and “taking advantage” of it over Perez, who was chasing him.

“The first title was a bit more emotional, the second is more beautiful,” said Verstappen, who falls into the circle of 17 drivers with more than one title.

– Penalty against Leclerc –

Verstappen had authoritatively dominated a race shortened due to his interruption, entering the finish line 26 seconds ahead of Leclerc, which in the end would be 31 after the penalty, and 27 over Pérez.

Verstappen now has an advantage of 113 points over Pérez, who went on to be second in the World Championship, and 114 over Leclerc, so he can no longer be reached when there is a maximum of 112 to win in the last four races.

The race, in which the Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Alpine) would finish in seventh position, was shortened as it had to be stopped three hours after the initial start, with 28 laps of the 53 planned being contested in the end.

According to the regulations, in the case of a “suspended” race that “cannot be resumed”, a different scale of points is applied: it is necessary to complete more than 75% of the planned distance for all the points to be awarded. But this point of the regulation was not applicable in Japan since the race could be finished.

“I didn’t think I had won the title as I didn’t know if I was going to have full points,” Verstappen said.

Mattia Binotto, boss of the Ferrari team, said he was “confused” and thought that all the points were not going to be attributed to Verstappen (who would have won only 19 points, insufficient to secure the title).

Another source of confusion: the drivers did not know when the last lap was going to take place. As it was clear that the race was not going to be able to finish, the test ends in this case three hours after the initial start (that is, at 5:00 p.m. local time, 08:00 GMT).

“Congratulations to Max, it’s a fully deserved title,” acknowledged Leclerc, against a rival who has 12 wins in 18 races.

With four remaining, Verstappen becomes one of the earliest champions. The German Michael Schumacher in 2002 and the British Nigel Mansell in 1992 did better, winning the world title with six and five grands prix remaining respectively.

After starting on pole position in this 18th race of the season (out of 22), Verstappen kept the lead, in the first start at 2:00 p.m. local time (05:00 GMT), despite the good start and the overtaking attempt by Leclerc.

First very difficult for the pilots, uncomfortable with the rain and water, the conditions improved after the second start, when the rain calmed down.

– Two early dropouts –

“There was nothing to be seen. I was surprised that the start was given, it was dangerous,” reacted Thai Alex Albon (Williams), who left due to mechanical problems.

The Spanish Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) also left after an accident.

The race was stopped to allow the evacuation of the two cars.

It was at that moment that the Frenchman Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) saw an assistance vehicle on the track.

An incident that provoked the Frenchman’s anger: “It’s unacceptable! How is it possible? I can’t believe it.”

This fact recalled the accident that caused the death of the Frenchman Jules Bianchi in this same circuit in 2014.

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