Max Verstappen clinched a second title in extraordinary circumstances after dominating a Japanese Grand Prix truncated by heavy rain.
Verstappen headed Sergio Perez in a Red Bull one-two after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who crossed the line second, was penalised for cutting the track and gaining an advantage on the last lap.
There was confusion after the race as to whether Verstappen had done enough to tie up the championship, because it was not immediately clear whether full points would be awarded for a race that ran just over half distance.
But governing body the FIA said that reduced points only applied if a suspended race could not be resumed.
Awarding full points or three-quarter points – as all the teams expected would be the case – was the difference between Verstappen leaving Japan as a double world champion, or having to go to the next race in the USA needing to gain one point on Leclerc and Perez to seal it.
Even Verstappen asked: “Are you sure?” when he was told he was champion, reflecting the historical precedent that reduced points are awarded in such circumstances.
But it seems that this protocol was inadvertently left out of the rules when they were rewritten over last winter following the controversial Belgian Grand Prix, when a result was declared despite no racing taking place.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said this was “a mistake” and he was “certain” the rules would be revised over the winter.
There can, however, be no question marks about the validity of Verstappen’s championship, after he secured his 12th victory of the season in the same manner as he has taken control of the championship, by being a class apart from everyone else in his Red Bull car.
“It’s crazy, very mixed emotions,” said Verstappen, who was told of Leclerc’s penalty and his title victory during the podium interviews conducted by former F1 driver Johnny Herbert.
“Winning the championship, what a year we’ve had. It’s incredible!
“I’m so thankful to everyone who’s been contributing to the success, the whole team has been working flat out. Beside that, the work we did with Honda every year, constantly improving, gets very emotional especially here. I’m very proud we could do it here.
“The first is more emotional but the second is more beautiful. We’re leading the constructors so we want to focus on that, to secure that.” (BBC)