Max Verstappen was unstoppable in the wet conditions at Suzuka, taking his first Japanese Grand Prix win – and more significantly, his second world championship. But it was not so successful for others. We’ve picked five winners and five losers from the race at one of F1’s most historic circuits…
Winner: Max Verstappen
As he has done so often this season, Verstappen commanded the race at Suzuka – building an advantage so large on the intermediates, he could have stopped for tires to try for Fastest Lap without losing the lead.
Victory was his first at Suzuka, having never led a lap at the venue before, and his 12th win in 18 races this season, moving him within one of equaling the record held by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013). ).
His 32nd career victory ties him with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, while his title triumph is the first to be achieved at Suzuka since Vettel achieved the feat in 2011.
Loser: Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc bravely held off Sergio Perez for much of the closing stages in Japan, but with the Ferrari driver struggling with the intermediates a few laps into the stint, he eventually made a mistake and cut the final chicane.
This triggered a five-second time penalty which dropped him from second to third, and ultimately confirmed Verstappen as the reigning world champion.
It is his fourth consecutive podium finish, equaling his career longest, but that was of little comfort to the Monegasque, who was disappointed to have suffered defeat against Red Bull yet again.
2022 Japanese Grand Prix: The last lap moment that cost Leclerc P2 – and sealed the title for Verstappen
Winner: Sergio Pérez
Perez bounced back from a frustrating Suzuka qualifying to deliver back-to-back podium finishes for the first time since Monaco and Azerbaijan.
And while he ended his own hopes of winning the World Championship, second place ensured his teammate Verstappen made it two titles from two while also bringing Red Bull closer to the constructors’ championship.
It was also the first time the Mexican had finished inside the top six at Suzuka, his previous best being seventh, achieved on three occasions. He is also up to second in the drivers championshipjust a point away from Leclerc.
It’s been an unsatisfactory weekend for Mercedes, with the Silver Arrows lacking straight-line speed that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell said cost them around 0.6s per lap.
On race day, and without DRS, Hamilton could not find a way past Esteban Ocon, with fifth his worst result at Suzuka since he retired from the 2013 race.
It was more disappointing for George Russell, who lost a few places thanks to Mercedes’ decision to double him when the field changed from wet to medium. With P8, it was not only the third time he did not finish in the top five this year – but the second race in a row.
Alpine returned to form with aplomb in Japan, after a double DNF in Singapore, the new floor of the French team adding some extra efficiency that saw Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso stand out.
Ocon qualified fifth – and brought the car home fourth in what was Alpine’s best result of the season. Alonso took seventh, did not finish the last two events.
Alpine jump McLaren in fourth in the championship of buildersand now sits 13 points clear with just four races to go.
Loser: Carlos Sainz
This was a Grand Prix to forget for Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard hitting a big puddle while trying to get out of Pérez’s spray at the original start. That meant he aquaplaned, lost control of the car and hit the barriers.
His main concern then was not to be hit, as he was sitting in a precarious position on the road with visibility particularly fragile. Fortunately, he escaped unharmed.
But it was his fifth retirement of the season and damages his hope of fighting for P2 in the drivers’ standings, because he is now behind Perez by 51 points.
2022 Japanese Grand Prix: Verstappen holds off Leclerc as Sainz crashes at chaotic wet race at Suzuka
Winner: Sebastian Vettel
This was arguably one of Sebastian Vettel’s strongest weekend performances of the season, the German delivering a fine qualifying lap on a track he has always had so much love for.
After a switch-off at the start that dropped him to the back, the Aston Martin driver was the first to pit for mediums, which turned out to be the faster tire in some ways.
It was an inspired call that pushed him back into the points, and he held off a fierce attack from Alonso to beat the Alp by just 0.011s and give Aston Martin their second consecutive sixth-place finish.
The highs were that Mick Schumacher briefly put Haas in the lead when he gambled on staying out on the wets in anticipation of more rain.
However, it was the wrong call and he dropped the field like a sack of potatoes, dragging him out of contention for points.
Boss Guenther Steiner admitted they were reactive rather than proactive with strategy – as Kevin Magnussen had a disappointing day too – and that extended the team’s run without points to seven.
Winner: Nicholas Latifi
Nicholas Latifi rolled the dice like Vettel and pitted early for mids as he had nothing to lose running at the back – and that put him in the top 10 and the battle for points.
George Russell succeeded in the closing stages, but the Canadian held off the McLarens to take ninth and his first points of the season.
That moves him above Nyck de Vries in the drivers’ standings to 20th – but that is of little consolation as he has lost his seat on the grid for next year.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
The positives for Alfa Romeo are that the front wing they introduced in Japan correlated with the wind tunnel and CFD – and delivered the predicted lap time gain.
The negatives are that they have not won again and have only one point to show for the last nine races.
As a result, they are now just seven points clear of Aston Martin in the battle for sixth in the constructors’ championship.