with a summaryMax Verstappen won his second world title. The Dutchman won a chaotic, rainy race in Japan while Charles Leclerc lost his second place to Sergio Perez due to a penalty slip. His crazy season has capped off in a great moment.
by Marijn Abbenhuijs
World Champion. It seems to have been proven for a while that Max Verstappen would do it again this season. And now it’s time. Its a nice place for him. In Japan, Honda’s engine supplier country. At the Suzuka circuit, where in 2014, three days after his 17th birthday, he led his first laps in a Formula 1 car during free practice for Toro Rosso, the team he would drive the following year.
Verstappen showed muscle from the start. When his rival Charles Leclerc pulled away much better than he did on the wet asphalt at Suzuka, I suddenly saw him shoot forward at the start of the first corner. After a long period of braking, relying on enough grip at the outside corner, the Ferrari driver stayed behind. He took matters into his own hands decisively in search of his 12th victory of the year.
Euphoria at the Red Bull camp after Max Verstappen’s second world title. Read all comments here.
But behind the first two drivers of the season, things went wrong very quickly. Interesting in the fight for the world title was the mistake of Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard completely lost control of his Ferrari, crashed and retired. And so Leclerc lost the “shield” behind him and Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez could theoretically squeeze into second place in the race. After all, one of two Red Bull will give Verstappen the world title, Leclerc would finish second behind the Dutchman, if he also had to drive the fastest race lap to actually claim the title.
But after Sainz retired, a red flag ensued. And it’s raining. Heavy rain, so there was no work on the track for a long time. And in that period of inactivity, there were two important issues. In the first place, of course, is the question of whether there are still races. And whether the race will end in a natural way. If that was the case, full points would be awarded to the top ten finishers, and that was crucial to the track for the World Championship.
But there was also an amazing incident with AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman, who had started from the pit lane and was soon forced to make a pit stop after getting a piece of the billboard on his car, was still on the track when he saw a tow truck that had to evacuate Sainz’s car. He made Gasly very angry. Understandable, because with poor visibility due to rain, this creates a life-threatening situation. In 2014, Jules Bianchi, also at the Suzuka circuit, crashed after hitting a tow truck. Bianchi died in 2015, after months in a coma. This time in Japan I’m left with angry reactions, including from Bianchi’s father.
Watch Gasly’s moment with the crane
In any case, the Grand Prix can still resume after a long break. Three-quarters of an hour before the race was scheduled to end, restart procedures began behind the safety car. Verstappen started on rain tyres, then kept Leclerc behind. And after the drivers switched to intermediate tyres, the Dutchman pulled away from his rival at great speed.
He fell far behind Verstappen as Perez was fighting for second place. That fight was of great importance in the fight for the world title. If Perez finishes second, Verstappen will be out enough points to secure the title. Second place eventually fell into the hands of Perez because Leclerc conceded a penalty. Just before the finish, Monegasque veered off the track briefly and cut through, leaving the Mexican behind. For this he was awarded a five-second penalty that placed him third and Pérez second.
And so Verstappen heard during interviews afterward, when the penalty was handed to Leclerc and the result changed hands, that he was world champion again. In doing so he added a fascinating new chapter to the Dutch sporting history he was already writing.
Verstappen has been told he’s a hero and he’s celebrating
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