By Robert Haile
In a dominant display Max Verstappen went on to become a double Formula One World Champion with victory around Suzuka.
With his closest rival Charles Leclerc finishing third and teammate Sergio Perez second after Leclerc was handed a five second penalty Verstappen wrapped up the title with four races remaining.
World Champion Verstappen said: “This is crazy. To win here in Japan is really special, I feel really proud that we could do it here. When I crossed the line, I didn’t know that I was World Champion, there was a lot of confusion but I thought it was quite funny.
“The first Championship was very emotional and this time it feels very different, it feels even more beautiful because of the season we’ve had. The teamwork has been unreal, we kept on pushing, kept on believing and kept on improving the car. As a Team we’ve made very few mistakes, you can’t be perfect but for most of the races we were close to it.
“Working together with Honda has been incredible and of course a lot of my thanks goes out to the Team here at track, back at the factory and everyone that’s been contributing with the Red Bull Powertrains division.
“Everyone has been working flat out and has a huge amount of motivation. Checo has been an incredible teammate and now the full focus is on the Constructors Championship. Let’s see what we can do in Austin.”
Persistent rain fell on the Suzuka circuit with the cars coming out for the start with Verstappen defending from Leclerc as the first stint of the race lasted two laps before it was red flagged.
In those two laps there was a races worth of incidents with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel slid his way to turn 1 bouncing off Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz race came to an end as he aquaplaned out of the turn 11 sending advertising board onto the circuit with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri collecting some that damaged the front wing sending him back to the pits, where he started from.
Williams’ Alex Albon’s race also came to an after contact with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
The question now was if and how much racing would be possible as the rain continued to fall, Gasly was summoned for what would be a 20 second penalty for speeding under the red flag.
Less than an hour left the Safety Car led the drivers out of the pit lane and the race would be half distance but would the points be halved?
Verstappen kept the lead at the restart with Vettel and Nicholas Latifi pitting to swap from wet to intermediate tyres.
As the stops went by Verstappen still led from Leclerc with Perez closing, with Ocon defending from Hamilton as Vettel, Alonso, Latifi, Russell and Norris completed the point scoring places.
As the race came to an end Leclerc cut the chicane as he defended from Perez with a 5 second penalty, coming after the race, handing third to Perez and the title to Verstappen.
Further down the order Ocon held onto fourth with Hamilton fifth, Vettel sixth, Alonso seventh with Russell and Norris completing the point scoring places.
Ricciardo, Stroll and Tsunoda missed out as they closely followed the last of the point scorers with Magnussen, Alfa Romeo duo Bottas and Zhou Guanyu with Schumacher in eighteenth with Sainz and Albon retiring.
Formula One heads Stateside with a trip to the Circuit of The Americas, Austin, Texas on 21-23 October.
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 366
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 253
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 252
- George Russell (Mercedes) – 207
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 202
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 180
- Lando Norris (McLaren) – 101
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 78
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 65
- Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) – 46
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) – 32
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – 29
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) – 23
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 22
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 13
- Mick Schumacher (Haas) – 12
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) – 11
- Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) – 6
- Alex Albon (Williams) – 4
- Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 2
- Nyck De Vries (Williams) – 2
- Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) – 0
- Red Bull – 619
- Ferrari – 454
- Mercedes – 387
- Alpine – 143
- McLaren – 130
- Alfa Romeo – 52
- Aston Martin – 45
- Haas – 34
- AlphaTauri – 34
- Williams – 8