Max Verstappen said the confusion at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix in which he was declared Formula 1 world champion was “quite funny”, but an upcoming cost cap could wipe the smiles off faces in the Red Bull garage. The 25-year-old Dutchman became the second-youngest double world champion on Sunday after Sebastian Vettel when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was given a time penalty that relegated him to third at Suzuka. The news emerged when Verstappen gave his post-race TV interview, but even then there was uncertainty whether fewer championship points would be awarded as the winner had only completed 29 of the 53 laps due to inclement weather.
After it was confirmed that all points had been awarded, Verstappen trailed his teammate Sergio Perez by 113 and Leclerc by 114, with a maximum of 112 available in the last four races of the season.
“This is crazy,” said Verstappen. “I didn’t know I was world champion, there was a lot of confusion, but I thought it was quite funny.
“The first championship was very emotional and this time it feels very different, it feels even better because of the season we’ve had.”
However, the teams will find out later on Monday whether they met Formula 1’s cost cap for 2021, which could be bad news for Red Bull.
The governing body FIA introduced the $145 million budget cap to make racing more competitive.
During the Singapore Grand Prix weekend earlier this month, there was speculation in the paddock that two of the 10 teams on the grid had exceeded their budget limits. It was rumored that one of them was Red Bull.
The FIA considers any overrun to be a serious matter and has a range of penalties available, up to a maximum penalty of exclusion from the championship for a serious breach of the cap, possibly even jeopardizing Verstappen’s title victories.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1 the breaches were “an open secret in the paddock”. Angry Red Bull boss Christian Horner labeled claims it was his team as “fictitious”.
Horner’s fury sparked a battle of words between the teams in Singapore, but they came together in Japan to unite in condemnation of a terrifying incident in the rain that took the shine off Verstappen’s glory.
Pierre Gasly narrowly missed hitting a trackside tractor crane in horrendous visibility, on the same circuit where Jules Bianchi suffered a fatal accident eight years earlier in similar circumstances.
Gasly said he “would be dead by now” if he hit the vehicle deployed to recover Carlos Sainz’s crashed Ferrari.
“We lost Jules eight years ago in similar circumstances,” said AlphaTauri’s Gasly. “I don’t understand how we can see a crane under similar conditions – not even in the gravel, on the racetrack.”
The FIA vowed to review the incident and related protocols about vehicles on track after a chorus of protest from drivers and teams.
“While it is normal to recover cars under Safety Car and Red Flag conditions, due to the specific circumstances and also taking into account feedback from a number of drivers, the FIA has launched a thorough investigation into the events where recovery vehicles have been deployed. at the Japanese Grand Prix,” the FIA said in a statement.
Sainz said: “I still don’t know why we keep taking the risk of having a tractor on track in these conditions. You’d be red-flagged anyway, so why risk it?”
George Russell, a director of the Formula One Drivers Association, spoke on behalf of the entire grid.
“In our opinion it is quite simple,” said the Mercedes driver.
“No tractors on the track. And if you need a tractor on the track, give it a red flag.”
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