Max Verstappen was declared Formula One world champion on Sunday after winning the shortened Japanese Grand Prix in dramatic rain.
Red Bull’s Verstappen crossed the line first and then he was awarded the title as second-placed Charles Leclerc was awarded a five-second penalty, knocking him down to third.
The result gives Verstappen a 113-point lead in the championship, making him only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to win the title with four races to spare.
Ferrari’s Leclerc finished the second race ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, but he suffered a penalty after squeezing Perez and left the track in a late surge for the line.
Verstappen was told he had kept his title midway through the post-race televised interview, and even the driver himself was unsure if he had signed.
“Of course it was a crazy feeling like I didn’t expect when I crossed the line,” said a shocked Verstappen.
“Will it be half a point? I don’t know how many points I will get. I’m very happy with the race we had.”
The race started off chaotically in heavy rain, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Alex Albon starting in the first lap, demanding safety care.
A red flag soon after forced drivers to wait more than an hour before action began again, again under a safety vehicle.
Verstappen continued to lead Leclerc and Perez, and extended it as conditions gradually improved.
Verstappen has won 12 of 18 races in 2022 and thanked his team for an “incredible” year.
“The first championship was a bit more emotional, the second championship was beautiful,” he said.
“It’s been a special year, and you need to remind yourself because years like this are rare.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Verstappen has “grown” as a driver.
“Bringing the number one title this year, he accomplished it with a lot of pride,” he said.
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