Suzuka was definitely missed in the past two Formula 1 seasons, however, we definitely did not miss its treacherous weather but in the end, of a frenetic Japanese Grand Prix, we were left with a lot to talk about.
The return of Suzuka to the F1 calendar is an event every avid fan of the sport would be excited about, as the high speed track is a favourite for fans and drivers alike, and it was great to see how the new cars went around the old school circuit with its famous corners, 130R, the Degners, and those S curves.
Rain deprived us of most of the experience with Friday and Sunday being a washout, but some nice weather on Saturday meant we got the chance to see the F1 cars given full beans in qualifying, so not all was lost there.
It was a fitting venue for Max Verstappen to seal his second F1 Title, being Honda’s home race, but the confusion with the rules on how points were awarded, and the clumsiness in announcing the Dutchman a double World Champion definitely took the sparkle away from the occasion.
The FIA did not do themselves any favours this weekend as well, with the whole Pierre Gasly/tractor incident and some other officiating stuff like taking their time to decide if Verstappen kept his pole on Saturday after his close call with Lando Norris.
Some really interesting material to go through, so lets get on with our Takeaways from the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen, a double F1 World Champion
Could he seal it on Singapore, or Japan, or maybe even we have to wait until Austin? Those were the questions ahead of the Asian double-header, but after the clumsy affair of Singapore, Verstappen finally sealed his second Title in Japan, and in style.
Pole position on Saturday set the sequence of events in the right direction, but after a poor start of the race on Sunday – the first start that is – the Red Bull ace quickly made amends and fought the fast charging Charles Leclerc in some nail-biting moments as the two went side by side for the first few corners and that was it.
At the restart Verstappen was on it and kept his place and went on building a gap over his Ferrari rival that reached over 20 seconds at some point, also helped by the #16 Ferrari chewing up its tyres.
But one could take nothing away from Verstappen’s race, as he was sublime in the tricky conditions driving his own race at the front to take his 12th win this season.
The confusion after the race was a joke to be honest as F1 and the FIA struggled to comprehend their own rules which was a shame for the way Verstappen was announced Champion.
However, you have to commend the Stewards – a hint of sarcasm here – for their swift decision on Leclerc’s penalty after his final lap error. Mattia Binotto was not happy with that, but no one actually cares.
So we conclude this Takeaway with our sincere congratulations to Max for his truly deserved 2022 F1 Crown with more Titles definitely beckoning.
Pierre Gasly and the Tractor
After Carlos Sainz crashed his Ferrari on the opening lap of the race – the first restart – and within the mayhem, Safety Car, the Red flags and all, a tractor was sent out on track to recover the #55 Ferrari as the cars were still circulating.
Pierre Gasly was the first driver to notice it and rightfully freaked out, as the painful memory of losing Jules Bianchi in a similar incident in 2014 still haunts F1 Drivers, F1 fans, and the sport as a whole.
After that, Gasly was under investigation by the stewards for speeding under the Red flag, which many saw as outrageous and a way for the FIA to cover up for their massive blunder the way they sent the tractor out on track.
This topic has two angles, but let me start by borrowing what George Russell said: “There are no circumstances in which we’re happy to see a tractor on the track. There’s obviously a lot of talk about Pierre, but that’s irrelevant.”
Spot on and well said George.
Again, having any recovery vehicle whatsoever on track at the same time with F1 cars is unacceptable, and even more so when there is rain and poor visibility.
Now the FIA announced they are investigating the incident and we shall wait and see what they come up with but, hopefully, lessons learned from this incident do not result in more complications of the rules and their mode of administration.
Simultaneously, we expect the FIA to be transparent in this regard and not to sweep this incident under the rug. Lives are at risk after all.
In the end, there is a fine line between improving procedures and overcomplicating them, and we have to be mindful that we will never reach an ideal situation where incidents do not occur at all.
The world we live in is far from ideal and F1, motorsport in general, is a dangerous sport and the chances of unfortunate incidents happening are always there. We can only try to reduce their occurrence and learn from our mistakes as we go.
Now to the Gasly penalty. It’s plain and simple, he made a mistake and got penalized for it and the fact that the Race Directors messed up with the tractor shouldn’t give him a free pass to make an error.
Let’s forget for a moment that there was a tractor on the side of the track. Just a crashed car in such poor conditions with another one approaching at speed would be a recipe for disaster, and that is why Gasly was rightfully penalized.
Having said that, we should not be distracted from the fact that there was a recovery vehicle working while F1 cars drove around. Gasly was given his punishment, now it’s time for the same to happen to whoever is responsible for the tractor mistake.
GrandPrix247’s David Terrien said as our group was discussing the subject: “Maybe the best here is for Gasly to go public and say: Ok I was speeding and I have been penalized for this but this should not divert the discussion from the fact that there shouldn’t have been a tractor out there in these conditions.”
And Gasly did exactly that; he took to Twitter to say: “Glad to go home safe tonight. For the respect of Jules, all his family and for our safety and one of the marshals, there should never be any tractor nor marshals on track in such conditions with such poor visibility. Period.”
He added: “For clarity, as discussed with the stewards, the penalty was given for going too fast between T14 & T15 which isn’t where the tractor was, I slowed down, but not enough and I take the blame for it.
“As for T12, I was respecting the delta time under SC (expected speed during SC) approaching T12, the red flag was then displayed too late for me to react & brake safely with the tractor & marshal right on the racing line,” he added
Gasly did his part, now it’s time for the FIA to own up to their own mistakes.
Suzuka Quick Hits
- It was a good decision to start the race and let the drivers get a feel for the conditions, and if matters get worse the Red flag can be waved which is what happened especially with Carlos Sainz’s crash.
But it would’ve been better to mandate a start on the full Wet tyres, not that they are ideal, but just saying. Some may see the decision to race as a knee-jerk reaction to Singapore’s criticism, which is right but, nevertheless, it was the right decision to go racing.
- The race at Suzaka may have been short and interrupted, but that didn’t stop us from watching some great racing up and down the grid.
Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel’s photo finish, as well as Sergio Perez chasing down Charles Leclerc. All great stuff.
Seb ⚔️ Fernando
Look how close it was at the finish 🤯#JapaneseGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/MnNqGLxkEm
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2022
- A shoutout to Nicholas Latifi here for a respectable ninth-place finish.