Max Verstappen not only won the F1 Japanese GP but also secured his second drivers’ championship after post-race penalty to Charles Leclerc.

Expectedly it was a wet start to F1 Japanese GP at Suzuka where pole-sitter Max Verstappen just kept his nose ahead in his Red Bull machine despite a slower start than to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who braked going into Turn 1 to avoid contact.

Teammate Carlos Sainz was a steady third until he was caught out by a puddle which led him into a spin onto the barrier. He brought out a sponsor board on track which AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly caught it which forced him to pit for a front wing change.

The Frenchman started from the pitlane due to rear wing changes but didn’t have the best of luck. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was third from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in fifth from Alpine’s Fernando Alonso who almost had him on the lap.

Alonso also had a bump moment against Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in the lead-up to Turn 1, which led the German into a spin and onto the gravel but he managed to continue on. Mercedes’ George Russell was seventh from McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian had a solid start unlike teammate Lando Norris who dropped outside the Top 10, which saw AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in ninth and and Haas’ Mick Schumacher 10th. There was a spin for Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu while fighting Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

He managed to continue on but Latifi’s teammate Alexander Albon did not have the best of ends to his F1 Japanese GP where he retired due to mechanical issue. With the safety car deployed, the FIA eventually decided for a red flag due to worsening conditions.

Post red flag:

There was a movement when the rain lightened and the grand prix had a set reset time too. But before things could get going, there was another message of the race being suspended as the FIA then put up a set timer to complete as many laps possible.

The rain though continued on and there was little movement, as the stoppage allowed to re-look at a footage where a tractor was seen trackside while Gasly was on track. The Frenchman was furious considering what happaned to Jules Bianchi in 2014.

The FIA explained the matter initially but put the situation under investigation until after the race, while Gasly was also under investigation for speeding under the red flag. With about 45 minutes remaining, the grand prix was given a green light.

The cars headed out on circuit behind the safety car as multiple opinions was being shared on the radio about the conditions. But the FIA decided to still get on with the grand prix with about 40 minutes remaining as Verstappen led Leclerc amid spray.

The pit stop game kick-started with most of the grid switching to intermediate tyres. Verstappen retook the F1 Japanese GP lead from Leclerc and Perez, Ocon, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Latifi, Norris and Tsunoda in the Top 10 places.

Haas’ Mick Schumacher ran in the Top 3 on full wets but his gamble didn’t work as a delayed stop left him last. At the front, Verstappen went flying in the lead with Leclerc in second but losing time lap after lap, while Perez was third.

Ocon was at a distant fourth being chased by Hamilton, while Vettel in sixth was being chased by Alonso. Behind them Latifi held onto eighth with Russell catching him as Norris was 10th where the drivers crossed the 25 lap mark.

Verstappen eased off to win F1 Japanese GP by 26.763s over Lelcerc, who only just managed to hold off Perez in the end to retain second. The Monegasque also took the run-off in the final part of the lap for which he was handed a 5s penalty after the race.

Perez ended up second with Lerclerc in third which sealed the second F1 title for Verstappen at Honda’s home event. Ocon was fourth who held off Hamilton for most of the grand prix, while Vettel was sixth by 0.011s from Alonso.

The Spaniard pitted for fresh set of intermediates in a bid to pass the German, but just failed to do so despite being side-by-side on the flag. Russell was eighth from Latifi and Norris in the points in the Top 10.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo ended up just outside points in 11th with Stroll 12th, Tsunoda 13th, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen 14th, Alfa Romeo pair of Bottas and Guanyu in 15th and 16th, Gasly 17th and Schumacher 18th.

There was some confusion over Verstappen’s title win especially the points situation where many took it that he was being awarded 19, but as the grand prix resumed after a red flag, the FIA awarded full points to the Top 10 which gave him 25 in the end.

Since Leclerc was demoted to third, this left him with 252 points in all while Perez sits second with 253 and Verstappen having 366 points to have a margin of 113 points and with only 112 available in the remaining four grands prix, the Dutchman had the title.

UPDATE: To add insult to injury, the FIA has handed a 20s time penalty to Gasly for his red flag infringement which takes his penalty points to nine in the year. The Frenchman was visibly upset to see the tractor on track and now gets penalised for speeding.

“The Stewards heard from the driver of Car 10 (Pierre Gasly) and team representative and reviewed video and telemetry evidence,” the note said. “After passing the scene of the incident, car 10 continued under the red flag situation, at speeds which exceeded 200 km/h on multiple occasions, and which reached 251 km/h at one point.

“The driver conceded that he now understood that there could have been marshals or obstacles on the track,and admitted that he was too fast. However, in mitigation of penalty, we take into account that although the speed could not by any measure be regarded as “slow” as required in the regulations, it was slower that the maximum speed that could be achieved under these conditions. We also take into account the shock the driver experienced on seeing a truck on the racing line in the corner of the incident.”