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Formula 1

Red Bull chief 'very surprised' Max Verstappen crowned Formula 1 champion as points confusion revealed

Rory O'Callaghan

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Red Bull chief 'very surprised' Max Verstappen crowned Formula 1 champion as points confusion revealed

Red Bull chief Helmut Marko says he was "very surprised" to see Max Verstappen crowned Formula 1 world champion at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen claimed his second successive world title in confusing circumstances on Sunday after winning at Suzuka - finishing the race 22 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was unaware that he had won the championship at the chequered flag, with Red Bull's data experts believing he was a point short of what was required.

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Despite Leclerc being handed a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, which dropped him from second to third behind teammate Sergio Perez, Red Bull believed Verstappen was still a point short of what was needed to claim the title.

It was not immediately clear whether full points would be awarded for a race that ran just over half distance, after being disrupted by heavy rain.

But Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, confirmed that reduced points only applied if a suspended race could not be resumed – handing Verstappen the title.

Marko, who is head of Red Bull's driver development programme and an advisor to the F1 team, has now revealed that their own data experts were unsure of the championship situation at the end of the race - with teams expecting three quarter points to be awarded.

"We only found out when the speaker was saying congratulations for the world championship because our strategist said we were one point behind (the tally needed)," said Marko.

"So it was a big surprise, but a very nice surprise."

Verstappen himself was unsure if he had done enough to claim the title after his 12th race win of the season.

Marko admits he was surprised to see Verstappen crowned champion (Image: Alamy)
Marko admits he was surprised to see Verstappen crowned champion (Image: Alamy)

"I realised that Checo [Sergio Perez] was second instead of Charles [Leclerc] but I didn't know if it was full points, half points or 75 per cent points because you're reading through the rules," said Verstappen.

"Tom [Wood, FIA media delegate] came to me and said that I was world champion and then suddenly people were saying 'no, you still need a point'."

Aged 25 years and 9 days at the time of his victory, Verstappen is the second-youngest driver to become a two-time Formula 1 world champion.

Only former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, who is now at Aston Martin, achieved the feat at a younger age - 24 years, 99 days.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Formula 1, Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen

Rory O'Callaghan
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