Max Verstappen caught in 'disgraceful' farce over F1 world title call

Max Verstappen, pictured here appearing shocked to learn he'd been crowned the F1 world champion.
Max Verstappen was shocked to learn he'd been crowned the F1 world champion. Image: F1/Getty

F1 fans and pundits have been left fuming over the manner in which Max Verstappen was crowned world champion on Sunday.

Verstappen won his first world championship amid controversy last year, and the second was plagued by fresh drama at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

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Only 28 laps were completed in Suzuka due to atrocious weather, but officials decided to award full points because the race resumed after a red flag had caused a delay of more than two hours.

Verstappen took the chequered flag by a whopping 27 seconds following a fine display after the resumption of the race.

The Dutch driver's championship triumph was then confirmed when Charles Leclerc - his nearest rival in the championship standings - was handed a five-second penalty after the race.

But confusion initially reigned as to whether Verstappen would be awarded full of half points due to the truncated nature of the race.

Rules usually dictate that full points can only be awarded if at least 75 per cent of a race has been completed.

But officials decided that because there had been a red flag and it went to the end of the three-hour window, full points would be awarded - making Verstappen the world champion.

There were comical scenes when Verstappen was informed of the decision, only for the driver to question if he had actually won the world title or not.

"But I'm not, no? I am? You sure? Because people keep telling me different," he said.

Max Verstappen, pictured here celebrating with his team after the Japanese Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen celebrates with his team after the Japanese Grand Prix. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Even Red Bull's social media accounts delayed announcing their man as a double world-champion as his title victory - much like in Abu Dhabi last year - was anything but clear, even for the driver himself.

"When I crossed the line I didn't believe that we would have won the title right there because I also didn't know if we're going to get full points or not," said the Dutchman.

"But nevertheless a great, great day at the end we could race and the race itself we could manage really well with the car and the tyres so I'm very happy to win here.

"The first is more emotional but the second is more beautiful."

Red Bull's motorsport head Helmut Marko said: "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).

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

Max Verstappen, pictured here after winning the Japanese Grand Prix and F1 world championship.
Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the Japanese Grand Prix and F1 world championship. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

F1 world in uproar over Max Verstappen controversy

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

"It's a crazy feeling of course as I didn't expect it when I crossed the line," said Verstappen.

"I realised that Checo (Carlos 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.

"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'."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner and Ferrari rival Mattia Binotto were among the many to suggest the rules needed work, while a number of fans and pundits that furious that Verstappen's win had been marred by controversy for a second year running.

The Dutch driver's first title in 2021 was marked by drama and acrimony as he fought a down-to-the wire, battle-of-the-generations duel with Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.

It ended in one of the sport's greatest controversies, with a late change to the safety car procedures leading to a last lap overtake in Abu Dhabi and allowing Verstappen to claim the championship.

with AAP

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