There was mass confusion on the ground in Japan today as Max Verstappen came home in first with all title hopes seemingly lost.
Even the Dutchman himself was in shock when he realised a last-minute mistake by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc meant he had a second world title in the bag with four races to go in the season.
The Ferrari man crossed the line ahead of Sergio Perez for the second step on today’s podium, although a mistake at the final corner led to the Monegasque driver receiving a 5-second penalty.
Leclerc went straight over the chicane under pressure from Perez in the Red Bull and then squeezed him wide as they crossed the line. Perez quickly voiced his opinion and said believed that deserved a penalty.
With the sanction later applied to Leclerc’s time, Perez was in second for today’s podium celebration with the Ferrari man demoted to third – securing a second world title for Red Bull’s Verstappen.
Journalists, drivers, and even the Red Bull pit wall weren’t sure that Max Verstappen had actually taken the title due to Leclerc’s penalty as Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz said: “There was an incredible scene on this Red Bull pit wall. While the mechanics and engineers were running up to the pit lane, Max Verstappen’s own team manager Jonathan Wheatley was reading the rules to check the interpretation that Formula 1 had done that made Max Verstappen world champion.”
However, it was quickly confirmed that full points were applied for reaching Lap 29 of this Grand Prix, and Leclerc’s penalty gave Verstappen the points lead he needed to secure his title.