'Incredible' Max Verstappen is World Champion again after win at Japanese Grand Prix

The Red Bull driver has been crowned World champion for the second year in a row, with four races to go after a dramatic late penalty for Ferrari's Charles Leclerc put the championship beyond doubt.

Max Verstappen is Formula 1 World Champions for the second time

Max Verstappen won a restarted race amid persistent rain at Suzuka, Japan, with Charles Leclerc initially looking set to finish second.


However, the Ferrari driver was penalized for cutting the chicane on the final lap as he defended from the other Red Bull driver and Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez.

The dramatic points swing now meant Verstappen heads to the United States Grand Prix, and the final four races of the season, with an unassailable lead over Perez and Leclerc – confirming the 24 Dutchman as world champion for the second time in a row.

The race originally got under way, with Verstappen defending from Leclerc after a close run to Turn 1, and only two laps being completed before the action was red-flagged amid intense spray and a series of incidents – which included Carlos Sainz crashing out.

With the heavy downpour, a lengthy delay followed, with the overall three-hour race limit ticking down, and the two-hour window coming into force an hour after the initial start, as Race Control waited for a suitable gap in the weather to get the action going again.

With just under 50 minutes to run on the race clock, the Safety Car led the field out of the pit lane for a planned rolling start, which was soon carried out and released the pack of cars – all of them this time forced to run wets, rather than having the choice to use intermediates.

From there, Verstappen mastered the switch from wets to intermediates as the track surfaced gradually improved, eventually crossing the line more than 20 seconds clear.

Leclerc was on course to finish second, and to keep the title race alive, but he was penaliz

ed for cutting the final chicane on the final lap to keep a charging Perez at bay, with the points difference meaning Verstappen had sealed the crown.

Esteban Ocon took a fine fourth for Alpine after some fierce defending against Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

While Sebastian Vettel recovered from a clash with Fernando Alonso at the initial start to take P6 on his final Suzuka appearance, Fernando Alonso bolted on another set of intermediates in the closing stages to come home in P7, ahead of Mercedes' George Russell, Nicholas Latifi – who, along with Vettel, made an early switch from wets to intermediates.

McLaren’s Lando Norris completed the top 10.


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