Max Verstappen has won his second drivers’ championship with victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, as full points were awarded despite a shortened race due to a quirk in the regulations.
After last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, the rules were updated to prevent half points being awarded despite no racing laps being completed. As part of those regulations, there are three separate point-scoring columns relating to if a race is suspended and cannot be resumed, with more than two racing laps under green flag conditions the minimum amount.
Due to a lengthy delay due to rain earlier on Sunday, the window to hold the race in saw it just manage to exceed 50% distance, with the regulations reading that races that complete 50-75% of the planned distance score a different set of points.
However because the race had been resumed and ran to a chequered flag rather than a suspension, full points were awarded. Originally, Charles Leclerc had finished second to deny Verstappen his championship regardless, but then a time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at the chicane on the final lap demoted him to third and gave Verstappen the title.
“We thought it wasn’t going to be full points awarded, so that’s obviously what swung it,” Christian Horner said. “We thought it was going to be one point short, so we were looking at do we pit him for the fastest lap and so on. But wow. That’s beyond all our dreams.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto had the same opinion, but had no complaints over the way the rules were applied.
“I saw clarification from the FIA saying that somehow it is full points awarded,” Binotto said. “We simply accept it, I don’t think there’s much discussion on that. So Max is world champion, congrats to him. I think he’s really deserving the way he drove this season. He did a fantastic season so well done to Max.
“We were confused ourselves. We were confused and we thought it would not be the full awards, so initially our calculations were that he’s not world champion. But in the end a clarification has been given which is an OK clarification, so I think it is simply accepted and that’s the way it is. “He is world champion and I think it’s clear enough.”