Charles Leclerc finished third for Scuderia Ferrari in a soaking wet Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, while Carlos Sainz had to retire after spinning out on the opening lap.
Long stop. The race started on time, at 2pm local, but was stopped on lap 2 after Carlos ended up in the barrier at turn 12, with the rain intensifying. The Grand Prix was finally restarted a couple of hours later, with everyone on full wets, for what was effectively a 28 lap sprint race. After seven laps, Max Verstappen and Charles pitted for Intermediates and, with his F1-75 working very well, the Monegasque set about pursuing his Dutch rival. However, after around a dozen laps, he began to suffer with tyre graining and had to defend from Sergio Perez who was closing in on him. Leclerc took the flag in second place, but moments before that, he had cut the final chicane leading onto the start-finish straight, for which he was given a five second penalty, that dropped him to third. Verstappen has thus won the Drivers’ World Championship title.
On to America. The championship resumes in a fortnight’s time with the United States Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc #16
"I gave it my all, but it was a difficult race for us today. We were strong in warming up the tyres in the first few laps, but then it all faded away. Especially at the end, I struggled with front tyre degradation and it was really difficult to keep Checo (Perez) behind me. I congratulate Max (Verstappen) and Red Bull for an incredible season, they’ve done an excellent job and deserve the title. We will use the last four races to work on our race execution, tyre management and becoming a stronger team all-round so that we can mount an even better challenge next year. We’ve already been making steps in the right direction in the past two races and we will keep on pushing this way until the end."
Carlos Sainz #55
"A tricky and disappointing Sunday. By the time the race started the call between Intermediates and Wet tyres was very close, but to be honest with either tyre the visibility would have been zero, which was the biggest limitation. I tried to get out of Perez’s spray and found myself in a big puddle, had aquaplaning and couldn’t do anything to hold the car. At that moment my only concern was not being hit. I was in a dangerous position in the middle of the track and I knew the other drivers couldn’t see me. Luckily for everyone, nothing worse happened today. We’ll reset and go back at it in the USA. Congrats to Max Verstappen and Red Bull for the Championship title."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal & Managing Director
"First of all, congratulations to Max on taking his second world title in what has been a great season for him. He deserves it. For our part, the outcome of this shortened race is rather disappointing, especially for Carlos who had to retire on the opening lap in really difficult conditions. Charles drove a good race overall, but unfortunately, he suffered with tyre wear on the Intermediates after pushing very hard in the first few laps after his pit stop. Now we turn our attention to the final four races, ready to fight in Austin in a fortnight’s time."