Red Bull CEO Christian Horner claims an “error” was made with the rules that allowed Max Verstappen to win his second Formula One drivers’ title at the Japanese GP on Sunday.
Verstappen became a back-to-back champion in perplexing circumstances, as despite having completed only 28 of the 53 laps at Suzuka, he took the requisite maximum points score.
That’s because the regulation on truncated races and points – new for this year after a 2021 Belgian GP saw half points won despite only a handful of laps behind the Safety Car – was drafted in such a way that it caused an unintended outcome.
Because the race was between 50% and 75% of the distance, Verstappen should have collected 19 points, which would not have given him the title even after Charles Leclerc was dropped from second to third behind Sergio Perez.
However, according to F1’s sports regulations, decreased points apply only if a race is interrupted “and cannot be resumed.”
As the race did end on Sunday, race control had no choice but to obey the stated rules and award full points to Verstappen, much to the amazement of the Dutchman, Red Bull, and every team on the grid.
“I think it’s a mistake that wasn’t included after the issues in Spa last year,” Horner told reporters after the race.
“We were under the strong impression that only with 75 per cent of the race completed would full points be scored.
“So we felt we were going to be one point short. But, in the end, Checo’s move on Charles nailed Max the championship. So you can see his surprise, the team’s surprise. But what a wonderful surprise.”
The FIA has indicated it will review the rule, which is expected to be rewritten.
It marks Verstappen’s second contentious title in as many years, though it should be noted that the Dutchman would have won the 2022 title regardless, with four races remaining this season.
Verstappen described his journey to champion as “confusing,” “strange,” and “pretty amusing.”
“I had no clue what they were going to decide with the points,” he said. “Of course, the main target was to win the race.
“But, yeah, once I crossed the line, I was like, ‘OK, that was an amazing race. Good points again, but not world champion yet’. Then I did my interview after the race. And then suddenly, my mechanics started to cheer and I was like: ‘What’s going on?’. And then I realised that Checo was second instead of Charles.
Verstappen added: “To be honest, I don’t mind that it was a little bit confusing, I find it actually quite funny. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not going to change the result.”