Two world championships now for Max Verstappen, both amply deserved for a driver of his outstanding calibre. Is it too much to ask that when the third one rolls around, it won’t be overshadowed by some absurd, abstruse and arcane procedural shenanigans?
I refer not to the fact that the stately process under which print media operates dictated that the cover of this month’s issue went to press before the Japanese Grand Prix weekend (should you be asking the question which will no doubt be screamed when the cover is paraded on social media: “Why no mention of the championship winner, huh?”). It was likely but not certain that Max would get it over the line at Suzuka.
This uncertainty extended to the three-laps-plus-40-minutes race itself, during which most observers – from experienced media centre hands to the posturing know-it-alls of the commentariat and even the majority of the teams – believed the outcome would be a reduced points payout. Indeed, the points were paid in full only because of a loophole (glaring in hindsight) left when the wording of the sporting regulations was tidied up after the 2021 Belgian GP washout.
Since the race ran to the maximum time limit rather than being stopped, by the letter of the law full points had to be awarded. Ironic given the regulations were rewritten with the intent of limiting the points given in races which don’t run the scheduled distance. And it’s not as if there was a shortage of eyes on the new wording.
“I was instrumental with quite a few others in writing that regulation and we know what it’s meant to do,” said Alpine sporting director Alan Permane. “What they’ve done is correct to the way the regulations are written, but I’m not sure it’s correct to how they're intended.”
Another championship, then, has been decided while Formula 1 noisily and publicly discharges a firearm into its metaphorical foot.
This issue of GP Racing will have landed on your doormat as the US leg of the calendar at the Circuit of The Americas beckons. While this round and those that follow will be dead rubbers so far as the drivers’ championship is concerned, there’s still a wealth of narrative threads yet to play out this year.
One of those concerns the form of Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez, a podium finisher on home ground last season and a potential winner now he has undisputedly the best car on the grid at his disposal, even if developments have made it less to his liking in recent months. A home win on the 60th anniversary of Mexico’s first (non-championship) grand prix would be just the kind of good-news story F1 needs right now.