Verstappen wins Japanese GP and F1 title with wet-weather masterclass

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Verstappen wins Japanese GP and F1 title with wet-weather masterclass

Formula 1

Verstappen wins Japanese GP and F1 title with wet-weather masterclass

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Max Verstappen dominated the wet-weather Japanese Grand Prix to win his second world title after Charles Leclerc dropped from second to third with a post-race penalty.

The heavens opened over the track in the hour before the race started, and lights went out as scheduled with the field on intermediate tires.

But the grand prix was neutralized halfway around the lap when Carlos Sainz aquaplaned into the barrier exiting the hairpin, with Gasly collecting an advertising hoarding that tore free from the wall in the impact.

Alex Albon also stopped by the side of the road with an apparent technical problem.

The safety car was deployed and a recovery vehicle was sent onto the track to collect the stricken Ferrari — but before Gasly, who has pitted for a new nose, had rejoined the back of the pack.

The Frenchman encountered the recovery truck in extremely low visibility conditions, passing just yards from it while travelling at around 125mph just as race control red-flagged the race.

Gasly remonstrated furiously over team radio, though he sped back up after the site of the crash, even hitting 155mph on the back straight before returning to pit lane, for which he will be called before the stewards later in the evening.

Race control attempted to restart the race around 45 minutes later, but in intensifying rain the restart was delayed a second time to wait for a break in the weather. It eventually restarted behind the safety car with 45 minutes to go before a time-certain finish would be declared.

Verstappen easily controlled the restart at the head of the field, with Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi pitting immediately for intermediate tires.

Their times were rapid despite the blinding spray from the standing water, and two laps later almost the entirety of the field entered pit lane to follow, promoting the early stoppers to sixth and eighth respectively.

George Russell and Daniel Ricciardo were the biggest losers from the frenetic stop window.

Russell dropped from seventh to 11th, though a pair of sizzling overtaking moves, including around the outside of Yuki Tsunoda through the esses, got him back into the top 10, while Ricciardo dropped from eighth to 13th.

Mick Schumacher was the driver who persisted longest with the full-wet tire and briefly rocketed into the lead, but his team’s hope to benefit from a cheap stop behind the safety car came to nothing, and he dropped to last when he took his tire change four laps later.

Verstappen suffered no such problems in the lead, where with the benefit of perfect visibility he split form Leclerc at more than a second a lap to put the race beyond doubt in a matter of laps.

Leclerc with much of the rest of the field struggled to keep the intermediate tires alive around the punishing circuit.

As the clock ticked down to the time-certain finish Perez reeled in the Monegasque on lap 23 and attempted to relieve him of second place.

Perez’s tires were in better nick and were able to carry a tighter line through the hairpin in particular, but he never had a strong enough exit to pass him down the following straights. But on the final lap the Ferrari was forced into an error, running deep into the chicane and opening the door to Perez — but he then cut the corner to rejoin in the final turn, blocking the Mexican from taking advantage.

The stewards looked dimly on the move and handed him a five-second penalty, switching their positions on the podium, with Perez second and Leclerc third. It meant Verstappen extended his championship lead beyond the 112 points still available and won his second world title.

Esteban Ocon held off a feisty Lewis Hamilton for fourth to the flag by just 0.6s after a race-long battle for position.

Vettel’s strategy gamble paid off, delivering him sixth ahead of a fast-finishing Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard stopped for new tires late in the race.

Russell’s recovery took him to eighth ahead of Nicholas Latifi in ninth and Lando Norris in 10th.

RESULTS:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL 28 3:01:44.004 25
2 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL 28 +27.066s 18
3 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 28 +31.763s 15
4 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE 28 +39.685s 12
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 28 +40.326s 10
6 5 Sebastian Vettel ASTON MARTIN 28 +46.358s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso ALPINE 28 +46.369s 6
8 63 George Russell MERCEDES 28 +47.661s 4
9 6 Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS 28 +70.143s 2
10 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN 28 +70.782s 1
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo MCLAREN 28 +72.877s 0
12 18 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN 28 +73.904s 0
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI 28 +75.599s 0
14 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS 28 +86.016s 0
15 77 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO 28 +86.496s 0
16 24 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO 28 +87.043s 0
17 47 Mick Schumacher HAAS 28 +92.523s 0
18 10 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI 28 +108.091s 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 0 DNF 0
NC 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS 0 DNF 0

Note – Leclerc received a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Gasly received a 20-second time penalty for speeding under red flag conditions.

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