Max Verstappen capped a sublime Formula One season with a similar performance at the Japanese Grand Prix to clinch his second consecutive championship.
Verstappen’s win gave him a place in the record books as he secured one of F1’s most dominant championship wins.
Only Michael Schumacher (2001 and 2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2011) have won a championship with four races still left to run.
Verstappen led the Suzuka race from start to finish but did not realize he had won the championship after taking the checkered flag.
“Yeah, it’s really a crazy feeling of course, because I didn’t expect when I crossed the line,” Verstappen said after the race.
“You could see it slowly happening. It’s incredible that we did win it here.”
The confusion stemmed from how many points would be awarded in a race that did not complete full distance.
F1’s rules state that limited points are awarded when a race is red-flagged and cannot continue. Although the Suzuka race was red-flagged, it continued to a conclusion on track, so full points were awarded.
In the final laps, Verstappen was on his race radio asking Red Bull whether he should put for new tires to go for the extra point available for fastest lap.
“I didn’t know, like, was it going to be half points?” he said. “I didn’t know how many points I was going to get. The gap just wasn’t safe enough for an extra stop.”
As it turned out, Verstappen obtained his title thanks to teammate Sergio Perez being elevated above Charles Leclerc moments after the race.
Leclerc ran wide at the final corner defending from Perez, then forced the Mexican driver wide as they raced to the finish line, earning himself a five-second penalty in the process.
While Verstappen’s first title was shrouded in controversy after the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his second has looked like inevitable for several months.
Verstappen’s victory was his 12th of the season; Schumacher and Vettel hold the joint record for most wins in a season at 13.
F1’s season concludes with races in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, meaning the Dutch driver has the chance to break the season wins record.