Written by Olivia Hartley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Max Verstappen started the Japanese Grand Prix weekend 104 points ahead of his championship rival, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. With 112 points available in the final four rounds of the Formula 1 championship after Suzuka, this meant the reigning champion had to finish today’s race at least 8 points ahead of Leclerc to ensure the championship win, and that’s exactly what he did.
Verstappen dominated in an eventful, rain-shortened race, winning out ahead of Leclerc, who initially finished second. However, during a late-race battle with Sergio Perez, Leclerc left the track while defending against the Mexican driver, and was ultimately awarded a five-second time penalty for gaining a time advantage. This meant that the Monegasque driver was demoted to third, putting him 114 points behind Max Verstappen in the championship. With Perez finishing second in the race, without the fastest lap, he was also no longer in title contention, being 113 points behind his teammate. As a result, Verstappen was crowned World Champion for the second time in his career, sparking celebrations in the Red Bull camp.
Suzuka is well known for being a frequent title decider in the Formula 1 championship, due to its position in the calendar, and this reputation continues into 2022. There have now been 12 separate occasions during which a World Champion was crowned at Suzuka, and another nine Suzuka races that have decided the Constructors' Championship. The most memorable amongst these include Michael Schumacher’s first driver’s championship for Ferrari in 2000, which began his five year reign with the fabled Italian team. More recently, Mercedes also marked the start of an astounding and record-breaking eight-year reign in the Constructors Championship at Suzuka, in 2014.
The Dutch driver has been completely dominant throughout the season, and has earned a championship title that no controversy can take away from him. Max Verstappen successfully demonstrated an immense level of skill this season, and the F1 community will look forward to seeing him achieve more such accolades throughout his Formula 1 career.