Max Verstappen wins the world title early in Suzuka. He bagged it in style. Formula 1 was lucky to get away with a black eye in Japan. There were only two meters missing, then Pierre Gasly would have collided with a recovery crane on the race track.
The return to Suzuka will be remembered by Formula 1. It was a race beyond imagination. For a long time it looked as if the premier class would only be able to offer lean food. After two laps at race pace, the race control broke off. Accidents and bad weather conditions forced them to do so.
The interruption lasted almost two hours. The fans waited patiently for the resumption of the Grand Prix. The organizer counted 94,000 spectators in the stands. Standing or sitting in the rain, Japanese audiences should not be disappointed. In fact, they saw another 25 rounds. And they witnessed Max Verstappen's coronation as double Formula 1 world champion.
Suzuka highlights in the gallery
The 25-year-old Dutchman once again drove like a world champion and secured his twelfth win of the season in the rain. He only had his difficulties at the first start, but fended off the onrushing Charles Leclerc with a daring manoeuvre. The world champion showed his instincts and great driving skills.
It only got boring quickly at the top. There were several sources of fire in the field behind Verstappen. Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez dueled for second position. Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton for fourth. Sebastian Vettel brought a clever tactic far forward. Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, struggled with his team's decisions. George Russell first slipped after the first pit stop and then went up a notch.
An incident superimposed all later events. On the second lap, Pierre Gasly almost collided with a recovery vehicle. At 200 km/h, he raced past the heavy obstacle at a distance of about two meters. Fans were reminded of Jules Bianchi's horrific accident at Suzuka eight years ago. He had collided with a recovery crane and paid for it with his life nine months later. This time Formula 1 got away with a black eye. Can't imagine what could have been.