It was a Japanese Grand Prix to forget for Ferrari, after what was looking set to be a strong race after Charles Leclerc qualified second and Carlos Sainz third.
Whilst qualifying was in the dry, the race certainly wasn’t!
The conditions were the wettest they’d been all weekend; however, Ferrari had demonstrated strong pace in the wet during Friday’s practice sessions.
Leclerc made an excellent start to the race and pulled alongside polesitter Max Verstappen, but the Dutchman did well to hang around the outside of the Monegasque driver to maintain the race lead.
Sainz’s start couldn’t have been any worse, as the unlucky Spaniard aquaplaned at Turn 12 after driving across one of the many rivers which were present at the Suzuka International Racing Course.
This saw the Ferrari driver become somewhat of a passenger, as his F1-75 slid across the circuit and heavily into the barrier on the exit, resulting in an unfortunate retirement from the race.
Moments after Sainz’s crash the red flag was flown, due to the intensity of the rain having dramatically increased.
The race did eventually restart over an hour later, where Leclerc again started strongly and tried to apply the pressure onto Verstappen.
Leclerc’s tactics proved costly, as the Ferrari driver’s Intermediate tyres quickly became worn out, which saw the Monegasque come under late pressure from Sergio Pérez.
It was looking for all the world that Leclerc was going to somehow hold on for second; however, the 24-year-old ran deep at the Turn 16/17 chicane on the final lap, which saw the Ferrari driver awarded a five-second time penalty almost immediately after crossing the line, which he did in second.
The penalty was awarded after it was deemed that Leclerc gained an unfair advantage, which demoted him to third and promoted Pérez to second.
This awarded Verstappen his second World Championship, after he outscored both Pérez and Leclerc by the number of points needed.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was furious with the stewards after the race, where he explained that they supposedly “didn’t want to hear” from Leclerc.
“Congratulations to Max,” said Binotto.
“I don’t want to comment on the penalty because it’s ridiculous that they spent 3 hours in Singapore, but only a few minutes here.
“Today they didn’t want to hear from the drivers, in Singapore they did. Charles didn’t gain an advantage.”
The speediness of the penalty decision comes just a week after it took them two hours to award Pérez a five-second time penalty, where they spoke to the Mexican and the Monegasque driver before taking what seemed like forever to make their decision on whether Pérez would keep his victory or not.