Max Verstappen was crowned as the 2022 Formula One Driver’s champion after he won a rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
However, just like his first title in 2021, which was shrouded in controversy over how race control interpreted Safety Car regulations, the FIA’s interpretation of how many points would be awarded created confusion about whether Verstappen had sealed the title on Sunday or not.
Verstappen needed to be 112 points ahead of his nearest rival after this race to seal the title in Suzuka. Before the Japanese GP, Charles Leclerc was second in the standings, 104 points behind Verstappen and Sergio Perez was third, 106 points behind.
The race started on time but was red-flagged after three laps due to heavy rain, two of which were behind the Safety Car following Carlos Sainz’s crash.
When racing resumed a few hours later, it became a timed race with just about 42 minutes of racing.
Verstappen led from the front and pulled away from Leclerc and teammate Perez producing another dominant display in wet conditions. Leclerc, however, was struggling after a few laps. He was involved in an intense battle for second place in the closing laps.
On the final lap, in the final chicane, Leclerc ran wide at the chicane, cutting the corner to stay ahead of Perez while crossing the line. The FIA promptly gave Leclerc a five-second race penalty demoting him behind Perez to third.
But initially it was unclear if the full 25 points would be awarded to the race winner since only 50 per cent of the race distance was covered. There was confusion about whether the new points system of 19 for a winner only would be in effect. Had that been the case, Verstappen would have only been 111 points ahead, with Leclerc getting 12 points for finishing third.
However, the FIA cited Article 6.5 of the Sporting Regulations, which deals with staggered points. It applies only “if a race is suspended in accordance with Article 57 and cannot be resumed”.
Since the race resumed after the red flag, full points were awarded irrespective of the total race distance. It means, after this race, Verstappen has an unassailable 113-point lead over his nearest rival Perez and 114 over Leclerc.
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