The Japanese Grand Prix officially ended one lap before it was supposed to due to a system error that resulted in the chequered flag being displayed a lap early. The glitch allowed Sergio Perez to score points despite crashing out of the race.
The Suzuka race was supposed to run for 53 laps but the light board displaying the chequered flag was displayed on timing screens at the end of the 52nd. F1's rules are strict on this matter, with Article 43.2 saying: "Should for any reason the end‐of‐race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the Line before the signal was given."
Race director Michael Masi said race winner Valtteri Bottas received the signal first and the FIA would investigate what went wrong.
"From what we have seen, it was a system error," he said. "It's something that we have got to investigate. I'm not going to pre-empt what is or was or wasn't, it was a system error that came up.
"The change for this year's regulations was that the big board on the start gantry would be the official signal [not the waved flag itself]. Valtteri got the chequered flag on that and, therefore, as the official signal everyone thereafter received it as well.
"Until we could confirm Valtteri had received it, a couple of teams came on the radio and they were advised to continue racing to the scheduled distance. The system error, and what exactly was part of it, I can't tell you right now and we will look into it and rectify."
The most recent error did not change the order at the front of the field, where Bottas recorded his first win since April ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Everyone down to eighth-placed Pierre Gasly remained unchanged.
However, on the 53rd lap, Sergio Perez crashed out of the race after tangling with Gasly at the entry to the Essess complex. Perez's crash initially promoted Renault's Nico Hulkenberg into ninth and the Mexican's Racing Point teammate, Lance Stroll, into tenth, the final points-paying position in the order.
However, as the result was declared at the end of lap 52, the lap Perez crashed out on was effectively invalid. He holds ninth, with Hulkenberg dropping back to tenth.
While it denied Stroll a point, it ensured Racing Point will leave Suzuka with two points for ninth rather than one point for 10th.
A similar gaffe occurred after the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix, when supermodel Winnie Harlow waved the chequered flag one lap early, on what was supposed to be the penultimate lap of the race.