Verstappen left feeling ‘very emotional’ as he becomes two-time F1 title winner
Max Verstappen shared his emotion as he described an “incredible” second F1 title win in dramatic circumstances at the Japanese Grand Prix, with his victory – and Charles Leclerc’s third-place finish – confirming him as champion.
As a restarted Grand Prix at a wet Suzuka entered its closing stages, the title race looked set to roll on to the next round in the United States, with Verstappen holding the lead and Leclerc running second – enough to keep the latter mathematically in contention.
However, on the final lap, Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, pressurised Leclerc into a mistake at the chicane and the Ferrari driver picked up a five-second time penalty for jumping across the run-off and defending his position.
After learning of his title triumph, Verstappen said: “It’s crazy. [I’ve got] very mixed emotions. What a year we’ve had so far – it’s been incredible. It’s something I could never have imagined happening after last year already, fighting to the end and having such a good car again this year.
“I’m so thankful to everyone who has been contributing to the success. The whole team here [at the track] but also back at the factory constantly working flat out and never missing any motivation to make the car faster.
“Besides that, the work we’ve done together with Honda all the way through every year, just constantly improving rapidly. To win now twice with them is very emotional, especially here [at their home track], with everyone watching. It gives you a little bit more pressure, but it’s good pressure, it’s positive pressure. I’m very proud that we could do it here.”
Verstappen has racked up 12 wins from 18 races so far this season, while Perez backing him up in P2 in Japan means Red Bull have five 1-2 finishes to their name – as the team now set about putting the constructors’ championship out of Ferrari’s reach.
Asked to compare his 2021 and 2022 title wins, Verstappen added: “I think the first one is always a little more emotional. But the second one is probably even more beautiful… The season we’ve had with the wins, the great races, the team work, the 1-2s we’ve had.
“We’re leading the constructors’, so we really want to focus on that as well to try to secure that. It’s been a pretty special year and it’s something you really have to remind yourself of, because these kind of years you don’t have very often.”