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F1 Review: Max Verstappen Wins Home Race Going Away

Max Verstappen bolted to his record-tying ninth consecutive win, winning a wet and wild Heineken Dutch Grand Prix as Red Bull remained undefeated. Verstappen took advantage of a huge home-field advantage and an even bigger car advantage to equal Sebastian Vettel’s record set in 2013. 

Fernando Alonso finished second, over three seconds back, while Alpine’s Pierre Gasly took advantage of a late Sergio Perez penalty to reach the podium. Perez took fourth, followed by Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, and Oscar Piastri. Esteban Ocon grabbed the final points-paying spot to give Alpine a double points-paying result.  

Red Bull continued further to distance their leads in the drivers and constructor standings. Verstappen now leads Perez 339 to 201 in the drivers standings, with Alonso third at 168, twelve ahead of Hamilton. 

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Max Verstappen Weathers Multiple Storms to Win at Zandvoort

In the constructor standings, Red Bull is on another planet, with an overwhelming 540 to 255 lead over Mercedes. Aston Martin is third with 215 points, 14 ahead of Ferrari. 

The Race

Verstappen held off Norris at lights out as the impending threat of rain hovered over the Zandvoort circuit. By the end of the first lap, rain had covered the front stretch. Perez, Charles Leclerc, and Zhou Guanyu were the first to pit for intermediate tires. Of course, the Ferrari pit was not ready for Leclerc, and Leclerc sat for an extra five seconds while the team scrambled. Again, miscommunication was an issue for Ferrari.

Verstappen and Alonso pitted on lap three for intermediates, and George Russell took the lead – but not for long because Perez was flying on his intermediates and zipped past Russell and was 10 seconds ahead in no time.

On lap six, Verstappen was in third, nearly 13 seconds behind Perez, and quickly got past Zhou and into second. Red Bull was running 1-2 and proving once again that not only are their cars superior, but their strategy decisions are as well. 

Verstappen was two seconds faster than Perez, and was five seconds back on lap 9, with reports of more rain coming in two or three laps.

Meanwhile, the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were running sixth and seventh, with Leclerc reporting front wing damage due to contact with Oscar Piastri. With Ferrari, the “hits” just keep coming. After crashing out of qualifying on Saturday (August 26th), Leclerc’s weekend kept getting worse, and Ferrari’s hopes for points appeared to rest solely on Sainz.  

Hamilton was the first to gamble on dry tires, pitting for a set on lap 11 and hoping that the incoming rain would be lighter than the first shower. Hamilton, who failed to make Q3 on Saturday and started 13th, needed a bold strategy to make an impact.

Verstappen dove in for soft tires on lap 12, and Perez entered a lap later, with Verstappen comfortably pulling off the undercut, coming out over three seconds ahead of his teammate. A confused Perez asked his team if he was undercut, and was answered with a “Yes,” an answer which should have been followed with an “Are you surprised?” or “You do realize we’re in the Netherlands, the place where Max was born, and he’s chasing records.” 

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Williams driver Logan Sargeant brought out a safety caron lap 16 after crashing into the barriers in Turn 7. Russell, running way down the order, pitted for hard tires in a “nothing to lose” strategy, which would likely only pay off if there was no more rain, and he could go all the way to the end on those tires.

Green flag racing resumed on lap 22, and Verstappen immediately put distance between him and Perez, with Perez having to deal with Alonso on his tail. Sainz, in fifth, was stuck behind Gasly, with the Alpine driver in turn trying to stay close to Alonso. Fortunately for Sainz, Gasly had a five-second penalty to serve for speeding in pit lane on lap 17.

Verstappen’s lead was up to three seconds by lap 27, and appeared to have the race in control, with more rain seeming to be the only uncertainty in his quest for his ninth consecutive win. If the race remained dry, Verstappen would surely take the win; however, even the smallest of showers could open up the odds of a different outcome considerably.

Verstappen built his lead to over six seconds by lap 39, as his team briefed him on some light rain just minutes away, likely not enough to warrant any wet tire change.  

Leclerc pulled into the pits and retired on lap 43 with what Ferrari called floor damage, putting a disastrous end to what had already started with disaster. 

With Verstappen, Perez, and Alonso running 1-2-3 and all with comfortable leads, the podium seemed to be set, barring any mishaps or rain. But behind them, positions 4-10 were all in doubt. Gasly was in fourth, but still had a looming five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. 

Verstappen dropped into the pits for soft tires and emerged comfortably over five seconds ahead of Perez. Red Bull gave Verstappen a forecast he probably didn’t want to hear, with heavy rain expected about 10 laps from the end. To hold on to the win, Verstappen might have to survive what could potentially be pure chaos. On the bright side for the Dutchman, he could go all out on his soft tires and build a lead that may ultimately be the difference should the rain make an impact.

The rain arrived on lap 60, first in turn one. Ocon was the first to fit full wet tires, a wise gamble considering he was well back in the order. 

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Perez spun into turn one, giving up second to Alonso. Verstappen returned to the pits for full wets as the Virtual Safety Car was instituted. Seconds later, the race was red-flagged, with several cars aquaplaning off the track, while Perez was stuck in the pits after coming in for full wets

After a lengthy 40-minute red flag, racing resumed after two laps behind the safety car on lap 67 with a rolling start. Verstappen couldn’t shake Alonso, while Perez was issued a five-second penalty for speeding on pit lane. Perez’s directive now was to finish at least five seconds ahead of Gasly in fourth.

Hamilton was chasing Sainz for fifth, while Norris was hot on Hamilton’s tail. Verstappen, up front, had eased ahead of Alonso by nearly three seconds and was cruising as the Dutch contingent cheered their hero.   

Verstappen crossed the line well ahead of Alonso, who scored his first podium finish since Canada. Perez’s third place was relegated to fourth after his penalty, vaulting Gasly to his first podium with Alpine. 

The Good

Red Bull’s strategy calls for Verstappen. Red Bull seems to put much more thought into Verstappen’s strategy decisions than they do for Perez. Verstappen was gifted the undercut on Perez when he was pitted on lap 12 while trailing Perez. Usually, the leading driver is expected to head to the pits first. Not in this case. I think everyone, Perez included, knows that RB decisions are made with the benefit of Verstappen and no one else in mind. They should stop trying to disguise it as anything else. Christian Horner attempted to explain the circumstances later with some rambling, non-genuine explanation that loosely translated to “We want to make sure Max wins” and “We want to make sure Sergio knows he can’t win.”  

The pre-race entertainment at the Zandvoort circuit. A techno DJ and orchestra donned in their finest evening wear, a sea of over 100,000 orange-clad Dutch fans, and dancing race marshalls, all under the backdrop of the North Sea? Sign me up. And who the heck needs hallucinogens?

Rain. Precipitation is practically the only thing that can alter the certainty of a Verstappen victory. And there was quite a bit of it at Zandvoort, necessitating a lot of unscheduled pit stops and spins in the wet. And if the unexpected is going to happen, in this case, Verstappen not winning, it’s going to take weather that somewhat levels the playing field.

The Bad

Red Bull’s strategy calls for Perez. If you’re planning an undercut, shouldn’t you, as a team, let the driver whom you’re undercutting know about it? And then, when he asks for an explanation, could you at least have the common decency to not BS him? And then, when it’s raining so hard that a red flag is a virtual certainty, should you maybe not call this driver into the pits? Red Bull and Verstappen have broken the spirit of every driver in F1, including their own.  

Ferrari “Ferrari’ing.” When the name of your race team becomes a verb, you know it’s not a good thing. When the first rain shower of the race hit Zandvoort, Leclerc pitted for intermediate tires, but his pit crew wasn’t expecting him. What a perfect time for the DJ to spin Britny Spears’ “Oops!… I Did It Again.” But it’s Ferrari, so you’d have to add a few more “agains” to make it more accurate.

Oddly, we didn’t hear Leclerc giving his team a profanity-laced piece of his mind over the radio; has Leclerc chosen to voice his displeasure with the silent treatment? 

The Disappointing

While some rain is good for a Formula 1 race, too much of it is a bad thing. The last round of rain at Zandvoort had the race shaping up to be a wildly entertaining finish, with the amount of rain forcing teams to decide on intermediate or full wet tires. This would have made for an exciting and intriguing finish. Alas, too much rain fell, and the race was red-flagged, leading to a 40-minute delay and an eventual four-lap sprint to the finish on intermediate tires that Verstappen handled easily for the win.

How is it we didn’t see one single instance of crowd surfing in the Zandvoort stands? There’s a DJ, a sufficiently-lubricated crowd, and a whole ocean within sight, no less. Come on, Dutch fans. You haven’t partied until you’ve accidentally dropped someone on their head while they were crowd surfing.

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Max Verstappen Weathers Multiple Storms to Win at Zandvoort

The Driver

It would be impossible to deny Verstappen this honor at his home track in front of his enthusiastic fans, particularly on a day in which he equaled the record for consecutive wins. Not to mention, Verstappen drove an exceptional race. He didn’t fret when he relinquished the lead after Perez was the first to pit for intermediate tires. With this car, Verstappen is just as confident when he’s not leading as he is when he is leading.

And, later in the race, when he held a comfortable lead, Verstappen didn’t let the threat of an incoming downpour, which is the only thing that could potentially ruin his day, worry him. He did what he needed to do: build on that lead, thus giving him more security to make a safe and calm tire change for wets while still maintaining a comfortable lead. 

Honorable mention to Gasly, who started 12th and overcame a five-second penalty to grab a stunning podium finish, helped in part by Perez’s late pit lane speeding penalty.

The Results (Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort Circuit)

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT722:24:04.41125
214Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES72+3.744s19
310Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT72+7.058s15
411Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT72+10.068s12
555Carlos SainzFERRARI72+12.541s10
644Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES72+13.209s8
74Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES72+13.232s6
823Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES72+15.155s4
981Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES72+16.580s2
1031Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT72+18.346s1
1118Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES72+20.087s0
1227Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI72+20.840s0
1340Liam LawsonALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT72+26.147s0
1420Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI72+26.410s0
1577Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI72+27.388s0
1622Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT72+29.893s0
1763George RussellMERCEDES72+55.754s0
NC24Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI62DNF0
NC16Charles LeclercFERRARI41DNF0
NC2Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDES14DNF0

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Christopher

Comment on the crowd: I have never seen a race crowd having so much fun as they were clearly having Sunday, in the rain no less.

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