Red Bull driver Max Verstappen wins second Formula One title

Verstappen finished top in rainy conditions and won his second consecutive world championship.

The result on Sunday gave Verstappen an unassailable 113-point lead in the championship [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Max Verstappen has clinched his second consecutive driver’s title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix in the rain at Suzuka, a victory that signals a changing of the guard in Formula One.

The result on Sunday gave Verstappen an unassailable 113-point lead in the championship, making him only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title with four races to spare.

Verstappen was only informed he had retained his title midway through the post-race TV interview, and even the driver himself was not sure if he had sealed the deal.

“It’s a crazy feeling, of course, as I didn’t expect it when I crossed the line,” said a surprised Verstappen.

“Was it going to be half points? I didn’t know how many points I was going to get. I was happy with the race we had.”

The Dutchman started from the pole under pouring rain – which sowed chaos – only for the race to be stopped after two laps as several cars crashed. It resumed two hours later with 28 of the 53 laps completed and Verstappen leading the whole way – from the start and the restart.

He was followed by teammate Sergio Perez in second and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. They were the only drivers who could have overtaken Verstappen for the title.

Leclerc was quicker off the line than pole-sitter Verstappen, who admitted he made “a terrible start” before the Dutchman regained the lead with a brave overtake around the outside of turn one.

“It was very close but that’s what people like to see,” Verstappen said.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz spun out on the first lap and the Williams of Alex Albon broke down, prompting a safety car.

A red flag soon followed and forced the drivers back to the pit lane for more than an hour before the action restarted at the second time of asking under a safety car rolling restart.

Verstappen resumed with a lead over Leclerc and Perez and extended it with ease once the safety car period ended and track conditions gradually improved.

Verstappen has won in all fashions this season – from the back of the field or recovering after a spin.

Sunday’s race was another example of his dexterity.

Winning two titles in a row moves Verstappen into elite company. It also marks a changing of the guard that could mark the end of the Lewis Hamilton era.

Last 10 winners

2022 – Verstappen – Red Bull

2021 – Verstappen – Red Bull

2020 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2019 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2018 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2017 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2016 – Nico Rosberg – Mercedes

2015 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2014 – Hamilton – Mercedes

2013 – Sebastian Vettel  – Red Bull

Source: AFP, AP