Max Verstappen capped a sublime Formula One season with a similar performance at the Japanese Grand Prix to clinch his second straight championship.
Verstappen’s win gave him a place in the record books as securing 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 think he had won the championship after taking the checkered flag.
There was confusion at the end of the race as Verstappen did not think he had won the championship.
“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 which did not complete the full distance.
F1’s rules state 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, meaning full points were awarded.
In the final laps Verstappen was on his race radio asking Red Bull if 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? 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 won 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 and 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 an inevitability for several months.
Verstappen’s win 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 US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, meaning the Dutch driver has the chance to break the record.