F1's overcomplicated rules explained after Verstappen left totally baffled by title win and Horner admitting confusion | The Sun

MAX VERSTAPPEN looked awkward as he sat perched on a red-fabric chair that was draped with a fake, white sheepskin like a gaudy throne.

He was not the only one.

His Red Bull sporting director, Jonathan Wheatley, the man who famously had THAT discussion with the FIA's former Race Director, Michael Masi, in Abu Dhabi in 2021, sat on the pitwall and frantically re-read the rulebook.

Just moments before, Verstappen had been told he was the F1 world champion by virtue of a five-second time penalty for Charles Leclerc, which demoted the Ferrari man to third place.

Still, some four minutes after getting the news, Verstappen was not sure if he was world champion or not, as he didn't know for certain if he'd been awarded enough points to wrap up the championship with four races to go.

For the second year running, the F1 title had been decided in the stewards' room – albeit in lesser controversial circumstances this time around.


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When the news was finally confirmed, Verstappen's concern eased – not that this year's title was in any real doubt over the final six races.

This year he has been in excellent form while his Red Bull team have been on point with their decision making.

It had become a matter of when – not if he'd win the title.

He crossed the line some 27 seconds ahead of his teammate, Sergio Perez, to win the Japanese GP, which had been time-limited to 28 laps due to a two-hour rain delay.

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It was a fitting performance with which to clinch the title.

He said: "During the race, I had no clue what they were going to decide with the points. So of course the main target was to win the race.

"Once I crossed the line, I was like 'OK that was an amazing race with 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 [Perez] was second instead of Charles, but I still didn't know if it was full points, half points or whatever.

"But then of course, you read through the rules. And the FIA came to me and said that I was the world champion.

"So then we celebrated but people were telling me no, you're still missing a point, and then it is amazing again – it was a bit weird.

"Eventually we had enough points. So then we were world champions again."

'Hard to find middle ground' on rules

When asked about the complexity of the rules, Verstappen added: "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.

"These are really complex situations with the weather and the amount of laps. And then it's a difference between if you finish a race or the race gets red flagged and you can't continue.

"If you don't write enough rules, it's not good. If you write too many rules. It's also not good. It's always really hard to find a middle ground."

So how come nobody knew the rules? The teams were simply caught out, for it was in the overly complicated regulations.

After last year's washout Belgian Grand Prix, the FIA changed the points rules, so that  only a certain percentage of the points were awarded if the race did not last the full distance.

With the Japanese GP running to 28 laps – just more than 52% – many had anticipated Verstappen would get 19 points for his win – not the full 25 – with Perez getting 14 for second and Leclerc 12 for third.

If that were the case, then the final result in Suzuka would have left Verstappen one point short of what he needed.

However, the wording of the rule caused the confusion. Article 6.5 states "if a race is suspended in accordance and cannot be resumed, points for each title will be awarded…"

However, because the Japanese GP DID resume after the stoppage for rain – the reduced-point rule does not apply.

The FIA later clarified: "The rules regarding the reduced points allocation only apply in the event of race suspension that cannot be resumed, and therefore full points are awarded and Max Verstappen is world champion."

Red Bull boss Christan Horner said: "We thought we would be one point short, so to win the title is beyond our wildest dreams.

"Max has been truly dominant from the way he has driven from the first race [of the season].

"The team have also raised it to a new level and have gone way and beyond. To win and get that victory here with Honda is very special."

Driver safety concerns

As for the race itself, in the tricky conditions it was Leclerc who made a good start only for Verstappen to regain his place in front.

But a first-lap crash for Carlos Sainz and the subsequent deployment of the recovery tractors rightly incensed drivers, and will require a full-scale investigation into just how marshals and tractors were allowed onto a live race track in those poor conditions.

It was dangerous and simply unforgivable considering this was a track that ultimately claimed the life of Jules Bianchi, who collided with a recovery tractor there in 2014.

The race was red flagged after only three laps and then faced with a lengthy delay, triggering the clock on the three-hour limit.

The race did resume with 40 minutes left and the rain-soaked fans were treated to some fantastic racing.

The highlight was Leclerc and Perez battling for second-place, with the Ferrari man leaving the track at the final corner and deemed to have gained an advantage, triggering a five-second penalty to demote him to third. 

Sebastian Vettel went from last on lap one to finishing sixth while Esteban Ocon defended brilliantly to hold on to P4 ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton simply could not find a way past the Frenchman despite relishing the tricky conditions.

He said: "I don't feel frustrated. It was a sprint race and I did the best I could and was happy we got some points.

"I was just so slow in a straight line. I got as close as I could but as soon as I pulled out, they got away.

"In terms of conditions, it was awesome. That's what motor racing is all about. I had a blast. It was so hard to see but that is motor racing."

Hamilton, who is in sixth place in the championship, added: "Congrats to Max.

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"For us, we know what the problems are with this car and I believe as a team we have not gone from being world champions to not being able to build a good car.

"I believe we have the team to come back stronger next season."

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