Verstappen takes 2nd drivers’ title with Japanese GP win

AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates his win during the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, on Sunday.

SUZUKA, Mie (AP) — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen clinched his second consecutive Formula One drivers’ title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix in the rain at Suzuka on Sunday.

Verstappen has been dominant all season and claimed the title with four races remaining.

The Dutchman started from pole in pouring rain only for the race to be stopped after two laps as several cars crashed. It was resumed two hours later with 28 of the 53 laps completed and Verstappen leading the whole way.

He was followed by teammate Sergio Perez in second and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. They were the only drivers who could have overtaken Verstappen for the title.

Verstappen now has an unsurmountable lead with 366 points. Perez has 253 and Leclerc 252.

At the start, Verstappen took the lead with a risky pass after a slow start but several cars lost control including Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who spun and was knocked out.

Organisers stopped the race after two laps. AlphaTaura’s Pierre Gasly complained on his radio that he passed a recovery vehicle that was allowed on to the track shortly after the safety car emerged. This incident apparently came just as the race was red flagged.

This is a sensitive issue in Japan. In 2014, French driver Jules Bianchi collided on the course with a recovery vehicle. He was placed in an induced coma and died nine months later.