Verstappen victory enough for title after Leclerc penalty in rain-shortened race

By Sports Desk October 09, 2022

Max Verstappen learned he had sealed another Formula One world title only after winning a rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

It had appeared Verstappen would be made to wait until Austin to confirm a second consecutive championship, as his hopes of getting the job done at Suzuka were rocked by heavy rain.

Even when Verstappen crossed the line in first place with just over half the race completed, title rival Charles Leclerc looked to have clung on to second to delay his title celebrations.

But Leclerc's late move to stay ahead of Sergio Perez landed him a five-second penalty, putting the Ferrari man in third and no longer within reach of Verstappen.

The victory for Verstappen moved him clear of Red Bull team-mate Perez, too, and the Dutchman was informed of his triumph only after his initial parc ferme interview.

It made for a bizarre conclusion to a long and controversial day, with initial attempts to start the race lasting mere minutes.

The safety car was out by the end of a first lap that had seen Leclerc briefly get ahead of pole-sitter Verstappen, only to trail again by Turn 1.

A series of incidents behind them in the awful conditions led to a yellow flag, and proceedings were red-flagged by the third lap.

The delay that followed lasted more than two hours, with Verstappen eventually resuming behind the safety car with only 45 minutes available in the race's three-hour window.

A sprint to the finish was without any drama at the front, though, and the title was instead decided by the battle for second as Leclerc left the track and then forced Perez wide.

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