There was significant confusion following the chequered flag at the 2022 Formula one Japanese GP. Firstly, Charles LeClerc was under investigation for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage. This meant the extra points Verstappen needed to win the drivers’ title was unclear in the moment.
The FIA quickly cleared up LeClerc investigation awarding him a five second penalty and promoting Sergio Perez into P2.
The race began but was quickly red flagged after Carlos Sainz hit the barrier at turn 12 on lap 1. Following almost a 2 hour delay the race restarted behind the safety car.
Shortened F1 race creates points confusion
The drivers were forced to use the extreme wet weather tyres which disperse standing water at around 85 litres per second. It quickly became obvious that the visibility was improving quickly and race control called in the safety car.
This left around 40 minutes of racing to go.
Eventually 28 laps were completed within the time and Max Verstappen had driven away from the field at an astonishing 1 second a lap finishing 27 seconds ahead of the classified P2 driver.
Yet there was confusion amongst the broadcasters as to how many points had been awarded for an interrupted race.
FIA rules re-written for shortened races
Due to farcical situations in years gone by where races were started in poor conditions behind the safety car, a few laps completed then full points awarded – the FIA have rewritten the rules how points are awarded.
To prevent short races concluded by red flags there is a tiered system by which points are awarded in FIA Article 6.5.
If more than 50% but less than 75% of the laps are completed, then reduced points are on offer.
19-14-12 would then be awarded to the top three finishers instead of 25-18-15 points.
Because just 28 of the 53 scheduled laps were completed it was assumed the reduced points under Article 6.5 rule would be applied.
Max needed to finish 8 points ahead of Charles LeClerc in the race to retain his world Championship won last year in Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull pour over rules
Even with the news LeClerc had been demoted to P3, the difference between the reduced 19 points for the win and the 12 for P3 were not enough for Verstappen to claim the title.
Even in the cooldown room after the podium interviews, Verstappen himself was unsure if he was indeed the champion. “I am not [World Champion], am I? Are you sure?”
At the time Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley was pouring through the rule book on the pit wall as he believed Max was one point short.
Mercedes too were checking the rule book.
Yet even when Verstappen was confirmed the champion there was still uncertainty as to why.
FIA surprise decision
Eventually the FIA revealed their decision.
“Article 6.5 only applies in the event of race suspension that cannot be resumed, and therefore full points are awarded and Max Verstappen is World Champion.”
So because the race was resumed after the red flag, full points are awarded.
FIA rule will need rewriting
However, this raises a question as to what would happen if a race having completed just a handful of laps was red flagged, then restarted with just 2 or 3 laps to go.
Under Article 6.5 as written this would see potentially a 5 lap race see full points awarded. This of course is a farcical as a race starting behind the safety car and finishing after a handful of racing laps under a red flag.
The FIA will surely have to look at this before it comes back to bite them in the future.
"Today, we were just lucky"
Sebastian Vettel says Formula 1 need to learn from the incident today involving the recovery tractor coming onto the track. pic.twitter.com/rWi5Rjhe9p
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 9, 2022