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How Verstappen can be crowned in Japan

After his title celebrations were put on hold with a disappointing seventh place finish in Singapore, Verstappen will have a second shot at wrapping up the 2022 world championship this weekend. 

Going into the first Japanese Grand Prix in three years, Verstappen holds a 104-point lead over nearest rival Charles Leclerc, while his only other championship challenger, Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, is a further two points behind. 

Verstappen needs to be 112 points clear of his rivals in order to be crowned a two-time world champion at Suzuka, meaning he must outscore Ferrari’s Leclerc by eight points and gain six on Perez. 

Due to his 11 victories in 2022, Verstappen is already guaranteed of winning the championship on countback. 

The most simple condition to seal the deal would be Verstappen winning the race with Leclerc finishing lower than second, a scenario that is not unrealistic given the track is expected to suit Red Bull’s car. 

However, Verstappen could claim the title with victory and Leclerc in second providing he earns the bonus point for setting the fastest lap. 

This could potentially lead to circumstances where Verstappen could win the title as late as the final lap of the race if he secured the fastest lap at the very end. 

Alternatively, imagine a scenario where Verstappen is leading Leclerc and holds the fastest lap going into the final few laps. Would Ferrari, or even Mercedes, pit one of their drivers to snatch the fastest lap point away at the death to keep Verstappen waiting? 

How else can Verstappen win the title in Japan? 

Verstappen’s inevitable coronation will not happen in Japan if Leclerc or Perez finish ahead of him, nor can he win the title if he finishes outside the top six. 

Either scenario would see the title race continue on to the United States Grand Prix on October 23. 

But Verstappen can still wrap up the championship without finishing first, and there are multiple mathematical ways the Dutchman could do this, albeit destiny would be out of his hands. 

If Verstappen finishes second: 

  • Leclerc must finish no higher than fifth with the fastest lap and Perez no higher than fourth without the fastest lap. 

If Verstappen finishes third with the fastest lap: 

  • Leclerc must finish no higher than sixth and Perez no higher than fifth.  

If Verstappen finishes third without the fastest lap: 

  • Leclerc must finish no higher than seventh and Perez no higher than sixth  

If Verstappen finishes fourth: 

  • Leclerc must finish no higher than eighth and Perez no higher than seventh (without fastest lap). 

If Verstappen finishes fifth: 

  • Leclerc must finish no higher than ninth and Perez no higher than eighth.

If Verstappen finishes sixth: 

  • Leclerc must finish outside of the points and Perez no higher than eighth, or ninth with the fastest lap.

Intriguingly, if Verstappen were to claim the title at Suzuka, he would do so at the same place former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel sealed his second drivers’ crown little over a decade earlier. 

Successfully defending his title in Japan would also see Verstappen become just the third driver to clinch the world championship with four races to spare. 

Only legendary seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher (in 2001 and 2004) and Vettel (in 2011) have achieved the feat before.

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