Even Red Bull caught out by Verstappen title confusion

Even Red Bull caught out by Verstappen title confusion
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates winning in Japan, ยฉ AP/Press Association Images

Max Verstappen needed convincing he was a double Formula One world champion on Sunday as even his Red Bull team were caught in the confusion that reigned after a delayed and shortened Japanese Grand Prix.

Rivals Ferrari were also unsure the title battle was over as a sport full of data experts and technical boffins wrestled with new scoring rules introduced after a farcical wash-out in Belgium last year.

"We only found out when the speaker was saying congratulations for the world championship because our strategist said we were one point behind (the tally needed)," said Red Bull's motorsport head Helmut Marko.

"So big surprise, but a very nice surprise."


Last year's race at Spa-Francorchamps was called after only three laps behind the safety car in torrential rain, with half points awarded despite no real racing taking place, and the governing FIA changed the rules in response.


Drivers must now have completed at least two laps under racing conditions for a race to be called.

There is also a sliding scale of points to be awarded based on how much of the set race distance has been completed, with maximum points only if at least 75 per cent of the scheduled laps are finished.

Sunday's race won by Verstappen was halted after two laps but resumed a little over two hours later and ended with 28 of 53 laps completed.


Verstappen crossed the line 27 seconds clear of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, but a post-race penalty dropped the Monegasque to third behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

Believing Verstappen would only get 19 points instead of 25 for the win, his team and rivals thought the title battle remained open.

"I realised that Checo (Perez) was second instead of Charles but I didn't know if it was full points, half points or 75 per cent points because you're reading through the rules," Verstappen said.

"Then Tom (Wood, FIA media delegate) came to me and said that I was world champion and then suddenly people were saying 'no, you still need a point'."

The FIA clarified that the reduced points rule only applied to races that are suspended and cannot be resumed.

Sunday’s race at Suzuka was restarted and, although drivers did not complete the full number of laps, it ran to the end of its time limit so full points were awarded and Leclerc's penalty handed the title to Verstappen.

Had the Monegasque kept second place, the title battle would have gone on to the US Grand Prix on October 23rd.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner and Ferrari rival Mattia Binotto said the rules needed more work.

"It's a detail which I understand somehow needs to be clarified for the future, what's the true intention, what should we do, is that clear enough?," said Binotto. -Reuters