Confusion and anger as Verstappen wins second title
"It was a bit weird but honestly"
Confusion, danger, anger and intrigue set the scene at Suzuka as Max Verstappen splashed to his second consecutive drivers’ title win.
The entire F1 world thought the Dutchman had just fallen short of the points he needed to wrap up the championship with a full four grands prix still to run in 2022.
"We only heard it when the circuit announcer said it," laughed Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko.
Team boss Christian Horner added: "I didn’t realise until Jenson Button said it. We thought Max had missed it by a point."
Indeed, insiders were unanimous that Verstappen would only get half-points at the chequered flag of the initially-delayed and red-flagged Japanese GP.
"I still didn’t know if it was full point, half points or whatever," Verstappen, 25, said.
"But then of course they read through the rules and the FIA came to me and said that I was world champion. We then celebrated and people were still telling me no, you’re still missing a point.
"It was a bit weird but honestly, I find it quite funny because at the end of the day, it’s not going to change the result in the end, right?"
Many fans of the sport complained that the race management overall in 2022 has been sub-standard.
"If you don’t write enough rules, it’s not good," Verstappen said. "If you write too many rules, it’s also no good.
"It’s always really hard to find a middle ground."
However, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto - who did not travel to Japan - was scathing of the way the FIA issued a near-instant penalty for a last-lap defensive move by Charles Leclerc that ultimately got Verstappen’s points tally over the line.
"How fast the FIA took the decision, when in Singapore it took them a lifetime for (Sergio) Perez, was ridiculous and unacceptable," he told Sky Italia.
"This time they didn’t even listen to the drivers. I think this race management is not good. We need to change in order to not lose credibility."
The F1 drivers, meanwhile, lashed out at the FIA after a furious Pierre Gasly came across a recovery vehicle while he was still doing 250kph upon the waving of the red flag in treacherous conditions.
The governing body said it has launched a "thorough review", with the late Jules Bianchi’s father Philippe admitting the incident left him with "a lot - a lot - of anger".
"I think I’m going to write a letter to the FIA because I don’t want this to continue. I don’t want another incident like this tomorrow," he is quoted by RMC.
Fernando Alonso said: "I think it was a difficult weekend for everyone, also the FIA.
"Max is world champion at the end? That sums up what this Sunday was like," he said.
"But Red Bull is the best team and Max is the best driver. He’s in another category and together they became an almost invincible machine."