Max Verstappen was crowned Formula 1 world champion in bizarre circumstances after a dominating victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
It had been a chaotic race, stalled by rain and then restarted, before chaos continued afterwards with confusion reigning over whether Verstappen had defended his title.
For much of the race, it looked like the Red Bull driver would be forced to wait until the next grand prix in Austin to win the drivers’ title for the second time in his career, with the race being red flagged due to rain.
When the race restarted it was shortened considerably, apparently leaving fewer points available, and with Verstappen’s rival Charles Leclerc crossing the line second, he seemed mathematically still in the hunt for the title.
So when Verstappen finished, he first celebrated just one race win – his 12th of the season – and ended his first post-race interview accordingly.
But Ferrari’s Leclerc had cut the final corner, under pressure from Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, and incurred a five-second penalty after the end of the race, ending his title run.
“Have I or haven’t I? I hear different things,” said Verstappen, after initially being crowned world champion in a second post-race interview.
This was confirmed again, and he sat before a “World Champion” banner in a throne room.
“I feel a little lonely,” he says.
Yet the Red Bull driver wasn’t quite sure of his new status as a double world champion, even after podium celebrations to mark his race victory, as regulations stipulating the awarding of points in the rain caused confusion.
“Am I the world champion?” Verstappen asked Jensen Button ahead of his podium interview.
According to the FIA, full points, rather than staggered points, could be awarded as racing resumed after a rain delay, giving Verstappen a 113-point lead in the world championship with just 112 on track.