Max Verstappen crowned the Formula 1 party in the Zandvoort dunes in front of more than 100,000 fans with his next masterpiece towards the title triumph. The 24-year-old world champion did not let himself be stopped by attacks from the Silver Arrows, who had regained their strength, nor by a final safety car phase, and ultimately steered confidently to his tenth win of the season in the 15th race of the season. “That was a mega ride,” said team manager Christian Horner.
Verstappen relegated George Russell in the Mercedes to second place on Sunday, third was Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix ahead of record world champion Lewis Hamilton, who buried his hopes of the first win after around nine months in the Silver Arrow due to wrong tire selection in the final phase had to. Verstappen extended his lead in the classification. With a total of 310 points, he now has 109 points more than Leclerc and Sergio Perez, who tied for the second Red Bull.
Mick Schumacher did not get past 13th place in the eventful race in the Netherlands in the Haas after a strong qualification, Sebastian Vettel was 14th.
Verstappen did not disappoint his fans at the start. He had secured pole with a splendid lap at the last minute in front of Leclerc on Saturday. When the red lights went out on Sunday, Verstappen pulled directly from the outside in front of the red Ferrari to steer into the first corner in front of Monegassen of the same age.
The plan worked, although Leclerc had an even better reaction time at the start of 0.25 seconds than Verstappen’s 0.27 seconds. Behind them, the cars of Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Sainz and Hamilton touched when the record world champion wanted to pass the Spaniard in third place. The plan didn’t work out. Both were able to continue and Hamilton put Sainz under constant pressure.
Like Hamilton, among others, Mick Schumacher had put on the somewhat harder medium tires at the start of the race, but initially got off to a bad start and after his strong qualifying session with eighth place, he lost two places. After starting position 19, buddy Vettel somehow tried to work his way forward in the again rather dreary episode of his farewell tour and was also beaten by Schumacher in a wheel-to-wheel duel.
At the top, Verstappen drove first. After all, Leclerc tried not to let it tear off. However, he did not get into the ominous overtaking window of less than a second, Verstappen determined the distance through the spectacular steep curves in the dunes of Zandvoort. Behind them, the Sainz/Hamilton duel in the pits was decided.
Once again, the Scuderia made an embarrassing mistake, the Spaniard’s tire change just took far too long. The left rear wheel was not there yet. “The pit stop was a mess,” admitted team boss Mattia Binotto, the mechanics had been informed too late. And that a week before the home race in Monza.
But even with Mick Schumacher, there was a huge problem. “The jack stayed up,” explained team manager Günther Steiner. The stop lasted ten seconds instead of the usual three seconds. Things went better for Verstappen, who came back on the track in front of Leclerc after his tire change.
He had already won his home race at the Formula 1 comeback in Zandvoort a year ago. And he also showed how strong he is this year when, despite a tire change, he conceded again to Mercedes man Russell, who was second behind Hamilton at the time. The two Silver Arrows were the only ones who hadn’t been in the pits at the time, and before he even caught up with Hamilton, the Briton came into the pits. However, the seven-time champion put up the toughest mix and another stop would not be necessary, as was teammate Russell.
And that became a big tension generator. Verstappen led but couldn’t last that long on his tire compound. He would need 18 seconds for an optimal pit stop. In a virtual safety car phase, in which the distances have to be maintained at a prescribed speed, Verstappen had the hard tires put on – Hamilton had the slightly softer and therefore faster ones.
The showdown over the last 20 laps was on, but Hamilton was a good twelve seconds behind Verstappen. And then a few laps later the safety car had to go out, Hamilton’s ex-colleague Valtteri Bottas had stopped with his Alfa Romeo. With that, the Verstappen lead was gone, the Dutchman had the softest tires put on for the finale, while Hamilton, unlike Russell, did not.
“It’s going to be difficult to keep the car behind me,” Hamilton radioed into the pits, looking at Verstappen. Some people promptly thought back to the 2021 season finale, when Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the last lap in Abu Dhabi after a safety car phase. And as soon as it started again in Zandvoort, Verstappen raced past Hamilton again. The now enraged Brit was then overtaken by Russell and Leclerc on their slower, harder tyres, while Verstappen delivered another driving and strategic feat.