Verstappen takes pole ahead of Japanese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen has taken pole ahead of tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, with team-mate Sergio Perez making it Red Bull’s 27th front row lock-out.

It was perhaps closer than most were expecting between the duo, with just +0.066 separating them at the chequered flag. In comparison, the gap from Verstappen to P2 last year was over half a second.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

McLaren’s Lando Norris initially split the Red Bulls after the first runs in Q3, but Perez eeked out more of an improvement in the second runs to leapfrog the McLaren into second.

The top five was rounded out by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. The other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, in contrast, missed out on advancing to Q2 by only +0.061 and will start tomorrow’s race down in P16.

Oscar Piastri will start P6 with Lewis Hamilton in P7, the Brit sounding more buoyant about the set-up of his Mercedes than he has in recent weeks.

Charles Leclerc ran out of sync with the rest of the top ten in Q3, setting his only lap of the session with the entire track to himself. His time initially put him P7, but with the rest of the field re-emerging a few minutes later for their second runs he slipped to P8 by the time the chequered flag was brought out.

George Russell qualified P9. He was released into the path of Piastri in the pits during Q1 but has escaped a grid drop, with Mercedes instead receiving a €5,000 fine for an unsafe release.

Home favourite Yuki Tsunoda rounds out the top ten.

Verstappen on another level in Bahrain.

Verstappen dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading his teammate and Sainz as he crossed the line to take what could be the first of many wins this season.

The 2024 season has begun. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and Leclerc got a good start managing to get alongside Verstappen into turn 1. However, the Red Bull forced the Ferrari to take the outside line where Leclerc had to back out and let Verstappen go. Perez also got a great start as he gained a place in one lap. 

Further back, Stroll was spun round and went from P12 to last at turn 1. At the pinch point Bottas bumped into the back of Hulkenberg who then tapped the back of the Aston Martin. Hulkenberg and Bottas picked up front wing damage, causing Hulkenberg to pit while Bottas was able to cope with the damage for the rest of the race.

It didn’t take long for Norris to gain places as he made a move on Alonso into turn 1. This left the door open for Piastri who was able to take advantage just a few laps later.

Meanwhile, Russell spent the first few laps pressuring Leclerc and was able to make a move around the outside of turn 4 on lap three. Perez was not far behind but took his time to take on the Ferrari. Leclerc was suffering with some brake issues which haunted him all race, but on lap seven Leclerc locked up and went wide out of turn 10. This made the move easier for Perez, who took the place from Leclerc. 

The Monegasque problems didn’t end there, Leclerc had a big lock up out of turn 1 just a lap later, which gave Sainz hope to turn 4 but Leclerc was still inside the DRS of Perez meaning he just kept ahead. It didn’t take long though for Sainz to use DRS into turn 1 on lap 11, taking on his teammate in a very close wheel to wheel battle, no teams orders at play here.

It was then time for the first round of stops. Every car swapped for hard tyres, with Russell and Leclerc pitting at the same time and Perez choosing to stop one lap later. The undercut can be very powerful at Bahrain and it very nearly worked for Perez but he came out just behind Russell.

On new tyres though Perez had better grip up the hill after turn 1 and down into turn 4. Russell took a very defensive line but couldn’t make it work for him on the exit and the Red Bull completed the switch back with perfection.

Close racing. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Sainz was unable to make the undercut work for him, he stayed out a couple of laps but came out behind his teammate. Meaning another close fight was imminent. It therefore only took a couple of laps before Sainz lunged from very far back down the inside of turn 1, taking the place from Leclerc.

While Verstappen pitted without a single car around him, Russell was defending his podium position from Sainz but was unsuccessful as Sainz took the inside line into turn 4. The chase was now on for Sainz to take on the Red Bulls.

Leclerc wasn’t the only driver nursing issues. Both Mercedes were told to lift and coast around lap 24 to control the power unit temperatures. Albon was also experiencing similar issues with the Mercedes engines. However, when not in traffic all these problems improved and were much easier to manage.

During the second round of pit stops Bottas came in for a switch of tyres, however this was set to be his second slowest ever stop. This time it was less than a day but he was stationary for 52.4 seconds while the team had to get a new wheel nut as the one they had refused to go on the rim. 

As of lap 44 the unhealthy cars of Leclerc and Russell appeared to make a recovery, with Leclerc all over the back of Russell at every corner. Russell locked up under the pressure in turn 10 and went very wide. Side by side down to turn 11, Leclerc had enough confidence with his brakes to take the position from the Ferrari.

Tsunoda not happy with his team. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Further down the pack, the RBs asked for a driver swap despite Tsunoda being within DRS to Magnussen in front with his teammate behind in DRS. Despite protests Tsunoda complied on lap 53 but this hurt both drivers as Verstappen lapped them a few corners later. Ricciardo lost time to Magnussen and neither RB got past the Haas before the end of the race.

Verstappen ended the race as he began, in P1, with Perez in second and Sainz rounding out the podium. The Dutchman finished 20 seconds ahead of his teammate, which is six seconds less than 2023 but still a large gap to the rest of the grid. He is going to take some beating again this year.

A shoutout to Stroll who had solid performance to recover from the back of the pack after turn 1 lap one, to finish in P10 and gaining a point for his efforts.

The top 3 for the Bahrain Grand Prix 2024. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Canadian Grand Prix: Verstappen Dominates in Montreal

Max Verstappen took a lights-to-flag victory in Montreal to complete another dominant weekend for Red Bull Racing.

The win is Red Bull’s 100th in Formula One since the energy drinks company bought Ford out in 2005, and also puts Max Verstappen level on wins with Ayrton Senna at 41.

Triumph at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve sees the Dutchman extend his championship lead over teammate Sergio Perez to 69 points, as Red Bull now head Mercedes in the Conctructors’ Championship by a whopping 154 points.

Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin held on for second ahead of a charging Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, while the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz recovered to fourth and fifth respectively.

Perez ended a disappointing sixth from 12th on the grid, a point for fastest lap scant consolation for the Mexican who suffered a third disappointing weekend in a row.

As has been the norm in 2023, Verstappen led away from the start and controlled the race from the outset, briefly interrupted by a Safety Car brought out after 12 laps following George Russell’s collision with the barriers.

From there, the two-time World Champion controlled the race, with Verstappen even able to laugh at nearly crashing at Turn Nine in the same way Russell did, such was his comfort five laps from the end.

The big fight was for second, as Hamilton passed Alonso off at the start and held station until shortly after the Safety Car returned to the pits, when Alonso outbraked his old nemesis into the final chicane and gently broke away.

In truth from there on, the Spaniard’s main annoyance after surviving an early race brush with the Turn 4 barrier was having to lift and coast despite that Safety Car, owing to a brake wear problem.

Those two were closely followed by Russell until lap 12, the Norfolk driver clouting the wall after taking too much kerb at Turn 9.

He was able to carry on until 20 laps from the end, when a brake issue that was a legacy of that crash damage sustained from that early race shunt, having fought up to 8th from there.

Driver of the Day Alexander Albon was an excellent seventh in his much upgraded Williams, six points lifting the Grove team off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.

That came courtesy of Williams’ straight line speed, with Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly all within five seconds of the Thai driver at race end. A penalty dropped Norris to 13th at race end.

Aston Martin and Mercedes begin to close the gap?

In Alonso and Hamilton, Aston Martin and Mercedes have two world class drivers reinvigorated of late.

Alonso has been the closest thing to a challenge Red Bull has had all season, while Hamilton was in the fight for second all the way until the end, a huge upgrade package from Mercedes a introduced a month ago paying dividends.

This weekend it was Aston Martin’s turn to bring upgrades, and in finishing eight seconds behind Verstappen the Silverstone squad will feel those improvements have worked, irrespective of whether Red Bull weren’t exactly going flat out.

Further back, Stroll fought his way up to ninth after a poor qualifying session, a penalty and a compromised race strategy as Mercedes’ George Russell was running well before his incident on lap 12.

More punishment for Perez

For Sergio Perez it was another lacklustre weekend as for a third straight race, the man second in the standings was punished for a poor qualifying performance.

It was another disappointing weekend for Sergio Perez

Starting 12th, he failed to make much of an impact on those ahead barring a first lap scrap with Sainz until the Safety Car saw him jump to sixth on the alternative strategy.

He failed to use the advantage of softer medium tyres against the Ferraris ahead later in the race having originally started on hard tyres, and was dropped by the Scuderia pair to a point where Red Bull elected to pit him for a go at the fastest lap, an extra point that will provide scant consolation.

The gap between he and teammate Verstappen is almost three full races, and it is now a question of when the two-time World Champion wins the 2023 Drivers’ crown.

Any notion of a title challenge has long since disappeared.

Improvements from Ferrari.

Ferrari have been much maligned for their race management and strategy over the last two seasons, but they deserve credit for turning a poor Saturday into a good Sunday.

It looked as if old problems would rear their head again when Leclerc went out of qualifying early, and a penalty for Sainz drop the Spaniard to 11th on the grid.

The call to stay out on medium tyres looked bold when the Safety Car came out on lap 12, but both Sainz and Leclerc managed used mediums well until laps 39 and 40 before fitting fresh hards.

Sainz may have been a driver behind that decision after appearing to resist a call to pit on lap 32, but operationally this was much better for the Prancing Horse.

Awesome Albon 

The final word must be saved for Williams and Alex Albon.

It was a shock to see the Thai driver top Q2 on Saturday and he was expected to fall back from 10th on the grid.

It didn’t play out that way and good strategy, good straight line speed coupled with a litany of upgrades on Albon’s car this weekend saw him lead home a train two-stoppers for seventh place, which marks the best result for Williams since Spa’s 2021 “race” when George Russell stood on the podium.

That lifts Williams off the bottom of the Constructors’ Standings.

 

Images courtesy of Pirelli Sport

Verstappen takes Monaco pole as Perez crashes

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the first time in Monaco after one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions in years. The world champion ended up just 0.084 ahead of Fernando Alonso, while the top 10 were covered by less than a second.

The most important qualifying session of the season started under bright blue skies, almost everyone going straight out onto the circuit knowing getting a lap in early could be crucial.

The early pace setter as expected was Verstappen, who went quickest with his first flying lap backed up by his team-mate Sergio Perez in second place. Both Aston Martins were also within tenth of the leading Red Bull. With just 11 minutes left of the session the red flag came out after Perez hit the wall at St Devot. The RedBull driver would not take any further part in qualifying.

The session resumed for a frantic shoot out to get through to Q2; Verstappen ended the session quickest with a time of 1.12.386 just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri with Williams’ Alex Albon third. Both Carlos Sainz and Sir Lewis Hamilton had to leave it late after scrappy first runs but they both got through in the end. Out of Q1 were Perez, Guanyu Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant in the Williams.

After a frantic Q1 the second session began in calmer fashion, Verstappen once again quickest straight from the off, closely followed by Alonso. The first runs were all completed without any dramas. Norris had a scrape with the wall at Tabac after damaging his left front suspension when exiting the chicane, ending the McLaren driver’s session. Hamilton again left it late but managed to get within 2 tenths of the quickest time set by Verstappen with a time of 1.11.908

Out at the end of Q2 were Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Albon, Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri.

Q3 began with Verstappen straight out on track to get his lap in early to avoid any red flags ruining his session as they had in recent years. The world champion set an early 1.12 but was beaten almost immediately by Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. All three of them managed to get into the 1:11s.

With six minutes left Lando Norris left the pitman after McLaren had worked some magic to get his car back on track.

Verstappen managed to get a good lap in halfway through the session and went to the top of the timesheets but amazingly was beaten by Ocon in the Alpine.

The last runs began with just 2 minutes left in the session. The driver at the top of the timesheets kept changing but ended once again with Verstappen at the top on a 1.11.365 just 0.084 ahead of Alonso. On the second row are Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, they will be followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda and Norris.

The stewards are currently investigating Stroll for missing the weigh bridge in Q2, while Leclerc may yet be in trouble for holding up Norris in the final session by moving slowly in the tunnel.

The race will be long on Sunday and the threat of rain could mix it up; Verstappen and Alonso into turn one could get tasty.

Featured image curtesy of by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen wins Miami Grand Prix from ninth on the grid

Max Verstappen took victory at the Miami Grand Prix despite starting down in ninth.

Verstappen made his way up to second after a series of overtakes in the opening 17 laps of the race, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc did battle with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

One of the Dutchman’s moves was a neat double overtake on Leclerc and Magnussen as they diced into Turn One. The world champion was on a charge.

A mega stint on hard tyres saw him re-join right behind polesitter and team-mate Sergio Perez, before passing the Mexican for the win in the closing stages.

Fernando Alonso comfortably held on to take third, while George Russell passed Carlos Sainz for fourth. The Spaniard picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, but stayed ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from 13th to sixth.

Charles Leclerc stayed seventh ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, whose team-mate Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Magnussen rounded out the points after a fourth-placed start.

Yuki Tsunoda took 11th, and he was followed by Lance Stroll – the Canadian failing to make the points after a difficult qualifying on Saturday.

Alex Albon came home 14th, with Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu following the Williams across the line.

A horrible day for McLaren saw Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finish 17th and 19th respectively, either side of Nyck De Vries. Logan Sargeant, at his home race, endured a miserable day as he finished 20th and last having taken front wing damage on the opening lap.

Verstappen takes Bahrain GP pole

Max Verstappen will start the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on pole.

The Dutchman beat team-mate Sergio Perez by just over a tenth of a second, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz taking out the second row for Ferrari.

Fernando Alonso’s exquisite pace in practice only translated to fifth after Ferrari and Red Bull opened their toolboxes, while Mercedes endured a disappointing evening; George Russell will start sixth ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Lance Stroll will start eighth – his injured wrist appeared to show during qualifying – before Esteban Ocon and the returning Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top 10.

It took less than five minutes of the opening session for the red flag to be deployed when some debris flew off the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and ended up on the racetrack.

After things got back underway, the lead swapped hands a number of times, with just over three tenths of a second separating the top five.

Further down though, it was not looking so good for McLaren. Oscar Piastri were eliminated in the first session, joining Pierre Gasly, Nyck de Vries, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant.

Gasly’s deleted lap time at the end of Q1 sent him down to last, while Sargeant set the same time as Lando Norris, but set it later. That meant the American agonisingly missed out on a Q2 appearance to the lead McLaren.

Sargeant’s team-mate Alex Albon did exceptionally well to make it into Q2, but could not put a lap time on the board after suffering with understeer.

Norris almost made it into the top 10, but was pipped by Lance Stroll, as Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda also missed out on the top 10 shootout.

Verstappen’s pole in Bahrain was his 21st in Formula 1.

Red Bull Racing Reveal the RB19 Livery and A Collaboration with Ford

Red Bull Racing have revealed the RB19 livery and a partnership with Ford during an event in New York

Oracle Red Bull Racing today launched the Team’s 2023 campaign in New York City, via a live show broadcast to over 30 countries across the globe and streamed by thousands of fans worldwide
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 03: The Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 is unveiled during the Oracle Red Bull Racing Season Launch 2023 at Classic Car Club Manhattan on February 03, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing) // FIA / Getty Images / Red Bull Content

The event from New York features interviews from Christian Horner, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. However, the main points of interest from the event were the reveal of the RB19 and the announcement of the Ford and Red Bull Racing Collaboration from 2026.

Photographer Credit:FIA / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 03: The Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 is unveiled during the Oracle Red Bull Racing Season Launch 2023 at Classic Car Club Manhattan on February 03, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing) // FIA / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

To The livery of the RB19 is very similar in relation to the design. The only main differences seem to be the changes of the sponsors from Puma to Castore in terms of merchandise. Rokt has also appeared on the side of the livery .Other than that, the livery has remained the same.

The main feature of the long stream, however, was the announcement of Ford and Red Bull Racing’s collaboration from 2026. According to Formula One’s official website, this collaboration will start in 2023 with Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri taking the engine from 2026 until 2030, at least. Speaking about the collaboration, Christian Horner said “It’s fantastic to be welcoming Ford back into Formula 1 through this partnership.” He goes on to say “They are a manufacturer rich in motoring history that spans generations. From Jim Clark to Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, the lineage speaks for itself.” Jim Farley, CEO and President of Ford Motor Company, also stressed, however, that, with this new collaboration, Ford will be looking to win in F1 with Red Bull.

What do you think of the RB19? Do you think the the Ford and Red Bull Racing collaboration will be a success?

F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Mexico

Three rounds left to go, and both championships wrapped up but that doesn’t stop the action. Mexico is next with plenty of off-track drama to chat about before the on-track drama begins.

Haas vs Alpine vs RedBull vs The Stewards

During the US Grand Prix Alonso hit the back of Stroll after the Aston Martin made a late move down the back straight. This sent the front end of the Alpine into the air before brushing a barrier. Luckily for the Spaniard, he was able to get his car back to the pits for the team to change the tyres and front wing. However, it appeared his wing mirror was not attached properly and came off during the race.

Perez with his damaged wing. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The RedBull of Perez also had an issue with body parts falling off. After a first lap incident part of his front wing was flapping around for several laps before flying across the track. The team decided not to change his wing through the entire race because he would lose too much track position.

After the race, Haas protested against both RedBull and Alpine which led to a 30-second time penalty for Alonso, dropping him outside the points. Alpine has since contested the result and will be a part of a hearing, scheduled to take place today. The protest regarding Perez was seen as inadmissible by the stewards.

The problem actually lies with the stewards. They should have brought out the black and orange for both cars like they have done with Magnussen many times this season. This looks to be another case where the teams are coming out worst off from a decision which they should have made during the race by the stewards. This is likely to cause many rumours throughout the paddock.

Perez takes on his Home Race in a Championship Winning Car

Sergio Pérez celebrates after the Red Bull Racing Showrun in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

This year there is no doubt which team has been able to capitalise the most in races, and with both championships wrapped up, this may be Perez’s chance to be the first Mexican to win his home Grand Prix.

It has been no secret that Perez has had to play number two driver this year and last year, the difference now is that there is no need for the team to favour Verstappen to gain points for his championship. This means that Perez has everything behind him to win the race. However, performances have not been on his side lately.

Whilst overall he is still an extremely quick driver, he has struggled to keep up with his teammate as well as the Ferraris and often both Mercedes. He will be hoping for a turnaround in form so he can give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 9pm BST and the race starts at 8pm on Sunday.

Verstappen seals championship amid confusion after Japanese GP win

Max Verstappen cruised to victory at Suzuka to take his twelfth victory of the season and his second world championship, in bizarre circumstances after a late-race penalty for Charles Leclerc.

A mistake from Leclerc at the final chicane led to a five-second penalty for the Ferrari driver, dropping him behind Sergio Perez, which when combined with a confusing quirk in the regulations, secured Verstappen his second successive title. For the second week in a row, the race was time-limited, finishing after 28 of the scheduled 53 laps due to an extended red flag period early on due to torrential rain. The way the championship was decided, plus other incidents throughout the race will once again raise questions about the FIA’s running of the championship.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090387 // Usage for editorial use only //

All the drivers started on intermediate tyres, in conditions which were arguably more suited to the full wet tyres. Leclerc was initially able to challenge Verstappen into turn one, but the Red Bull swept around the outside to retain the lead. Further back, Sebastian Vettel collided with Fernando Alonso, sending the Aston Martin driver plummeting down the field.

Conditions were extremely treacherous at this point, and Carlos Sainz was caught out in dramatic fashion, crashing heavily at the entry to turn twelve. He was lucky not to be collected by the field, with Lewis Hamilton coming inches away from striking the stricken Ferrari. Further back, Zhou Guanyu had a spin and was able to continue, with Alex Albon retiring with a power unit problem.

The Safety Car was deployed, and unsurprisingly the race was red flagged on lap two as conditions worsened. Pierre Gasly had to make a pitstop after collecting an advertising hoarding on his car, and was catching the pack when he came frighteningly close to hitting a tractor, which had been released onto the circuit to collect Sainz’s car. Questions will surely be asked about how this was allowed to happen, with Gasly still travelling around at speed to catch the end of the train.

This led to a two-hour stoppage with the race resuming at 16:15 local time, although the FIA originally planned to restart at 14:50 local time, before calling this off less than 2 minutes before the cars were meant to head out on circuit. Once they did finally resume, it was clear that the full wet tyres wouldn’t be needed for much longer, and as the safety car came in after three laps, Vettel and Nicholas Latifi followed it down the pitlane to change to intermediate tyres, and were instantly the fastest cars in the field, with 40 minutes of racing action left.

All the field eventually changed to the intermediate tyres, with Mick Schumacher being the last to change, as his Haas team gambled on a safety car or on the rain returning – a move which could have potentially put them on the podium if successful – but led to the young German cast adrift of the field in last place. Verstappen and Leclerc were comfortably ahead of the field at this point, and initially continued to pull away.

In the difficult conditions, overtaking opportunities were always going to be hard to come by. Lewis Hamilton spent the entire race stuck behind Esteban Ocon, with his Mercedes not having enough straight-line speed to be able to comfortably make the move. His teammate was finding things easier however, pulling off some sublime moves around the outside at the Esses to work his way up to eighth place, after dropping places in the pit stop period.

At the front, Verstappen was pulling away from Leclerc at a rate of one second per lap, with the Ferrari struggling badly for understeer as the intermediates wore out, which allowed Perez to close onto the rear of Leclerc. This was a problem for many across the field, and became acutely clear when Zhou pitted for fresh tyres and immediately set the fastest lap. Others reacted to this and came in for fresh tyres, most notably Fernando Alonso, who dropped from seventh to tenth with eight minutes remaining.

Alonso was soon ahead of Lando Norris and Latifi, and dispatched Russell with one lap to go. Soon he was on the back of Vettel, with the two drag racing across the line as Vettel came out on top by 0.011s.

Out in front, Verstappen cruised across the line, over 25 seconds clear of the pack after 28 laps. It looked as though Leclerc had held on for second, before a costly mistake at the final chicane forced him to cut the corner, as he barely held on across the line from Perez. However, he was adjudged to have gained an advantage from this, dropping him behind Perez and into third, and giving Red Bull their fifth 1-2 of the season. The rest of the points finishers were Ocon, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Russell, Latifi and Norris.

This is where the confusion began. After the Spa debacle of 2021, the rules regarding points in suspended races were changed. Under the previous rules, any race where between 2 laps and 75% of laps are completed, half points would be awarded. Many people interpreted the new rules as giving Verstappen 19 points for the win (having completed between 50-75% of the full race distance), with Perez getting 14 and Leclerc getting 12. However, these rules now only apply to races which are suspended and not resumed, meaning full points were awarded at Suzuka, putting Verstappen 113 points clear with 112 remaining, and securing the championship for the Dutchman. Given that this rule therefore means it is possible to have a three-lap race and give full points, it would only be sensible for this to be looked at.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team after the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images ) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090615 // Usage for editorial use only //

It had looked for a while as though it was always going to be when Max secured the title, not if, given his dominance of the season so far. With four races to go, he is just one behind Vettel and Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season, with the RB18’s fourteenth win making it Adrian Newey’s most successful car yet. Once again though, it is under controversial circumstances for Max, given the points confusion and the looming cost-cap report. With regulations remaining largely stable however until 2026, there is a huge possibility that Verstappen will claim a straightforward championship sooner rather than later.

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