Max Verstappen wins second straight F1 title with Japan win – NBC New York
Max Verstappen is now a double Formula 1 world champion, two titles awarded in bizarre and unprecedented circumstances long after crossing the finish line.
The Red Bull driver won the rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday and only learned he was champion when F1’s governing body penalized Charles Leclerc after the race.
“The championship obviously didn’t go as planned this time around,” Verstappen said first after getting out of his car following his 12th win of the season. The Dutchman even apologized to the crowd over the track’s PA system.
Seconds later Verstappen learned he was a double world champion and crew members and friends smothered him with hugs.
“Once the line was crossed, I said to myself: ‘It was an incredible race, more good points. But I’m not world champion yet.
The 25-year-old said he was warned when his mechanics started clapping, but said he was still confused.
“I don’t mind that it’s a little confusing,” he said. “I actually find it quite…funny.”
Verstappen’s first title came at last season’s finale in Abu Dhabi, where seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton dominated the race until a late warning. It was then that race control triggered an unprecedented sequence of events when race director Michael Masi, since dismissed, authorized a late restart.
Verstappen overtook Hamilton to win the race and his first championship, but Mercedes disputed the end of the race and the teams argued with the FIA for hours before Verstappen was finally, officially, named champion and able to celebrate.
Two titles for Verstappen signal a changing of the guard in F1, though Verstappen’s breakthrough races will forever be remembered for their controversial endings.
At Suzuka, Verstappen started from pole in the pouring rain only for the race to be stopped after two laps as several cars crashed. The race resumed two hours later, but only 28 of the 53 laps were completed and Verstappen led all the way.
A year ago, the Belgian Grand Prix did not end in rain and F1, for the sixth time in history, only allowed half the points for the shortened event. Thus, almost all the teams estimated that Sunday’s race would again bring only half the points.
The whole paddock seemed surprised when the FIA then decided that all points would be awarded. But even that wasn’t enough: Leclerc received a post-race penalty that dropped the Ferrari driver from second to third and officially gave Verstappen the points margin needed to clinch the title with four races to go.
“So we had enough points, so we were world champions again,” Verstappen summed up. “It’s a great feeling, but when I crossed the line I didn’t think we would have won the title on the spot.”
The race was messy from the start in the rain when Carlos Sainz Jr. spun and was knocked out of the race, and Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu also had a dramatic spin but continued.
The organizers stopped the race after two laps.
Pierre Gasly complained on his radio that he had passed a recovery vehicle which was badly on the track when the safety car emerged just as the race was red flagged. It sparked anger across the paddock as in 2014 French driver Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery vehicle on the Suzuka track. Bianchi was placed in an induced coma and died nine months later, and he was one of Gasly’s closest friends.
“What is this tractor on the track? I passed by,” Gasly told his AlphaTauri team over the radio. “It’s unacceptable. Remember what happened. I can’t believe this.
The FIA said after the race it was investigating the deployment of security vehicles.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Perez were also furious.
“We lost Jules Bianchi here and that should never happen, so there needs to be a full investigation into why there was a recovery vehicle at the circuit,” Horner said.
And on social media, Perez complained: “How can we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on the tracks? We lost Jules because of this error. What happened today is totally unacceptable! I hope this is the last time I see a crane on the tracks! »
Even Bianchi’s father, Philippe, chimed in with an Instagram post.
“No respect for the life of the pilot, no respect for the memory of Jules. Incredible,” he wrote.
Long after the race, Gasly was penalized for speeding in red flag conditions.
Meanwhile, Verstappen never looked back even though he was unsure of winning the title on Sunday.
But just like last year, when Mercedes threatened for four days to bring Abu Dhabi’s arrival to the highest panel of sports calls, Verstappen is once again waiting to see if his two titles are intact.
The FIA is investigating whether Red Bull exceeded last year’s spending cap and a decision is expected to be announced on Monday. That could involve financial penalties or even strip Verstappen of his 2021 title. After the Suzuka mess, stripping Verstappen of last year’s title would be a public relations nightmare for F1 and the FIA.
Either way, Verstappen has proven his worth on the track over the past two seasons and this year has been unstoppable.
Verstappen has won in every way this season – from the back of the field, through traffic and even recovering from a spin in the race. Sunday’s race was another example of his dexterity as mistakes, faults and poor racing conditions never slowed him down.
Verstappen essentially had the title wrapped up before the summer break, and it was never a question of whether he would win – but when and in how many races.
Winning two titles in a row makes Verstappen an elite company. It also marks a changing of the guard that could mark the end of the Hamilton era.
Among the drivers of the modern era who have won at least two consecutive victories are Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Jackie Stewart and Nelson Piquet have won several titles, but never consecutively.
Verstappen edged out Hamilton as Formula 1’s main man. Hamilton, 37, whose Mercedes has disappointed this year, has not won a race since Saudi Arabia, the penultimate race of 2021.
Verstappen has racing in his blood. His father, Jos Verstappen, ran over 100 F1 races but never managed to win. The elder Verstappen was once a teammate of Schumacher with Benetton for part of the 1994 season.
His mother, Sophie, was a top go-kart racer and a skilled driver in her own right.
Verstappen, who was born in Belgium and learned to race there, drives under the flag of the Netherlands, where after school every day he would cross the border to his father’s racing shop and work to become a future F1 champion.
He is the youngest driver to ever make his Formula 1 debut, aged 17 at the wheel of Toro Rosso in 2015.
With 12 wins this season, he is closing in on Schumacher and Vettel’s season record, both with 13. Schumacher won 13 races in 2004, Vettel did so in 2013.
Schumacher had one of the most dominant seasons in 2002 when he won the French Grand Prix title with six races to go. This was when F1 was a 17-race season.