F1: Verstappen takes back title lead with Dutch GP victory
Updated: Sep 8
In front of nearly seventy thousand adoring Dutch supporters, Max Verstappen delivered on what he promised as he took back the lead of the championship after winning his home Grand Prix.
Some 35 years after the last Grand Prix to take place round the roller-coaster Zandvoort circuit, it made a very welcome return to the calendar with drivers having to find opportunities to overtake others.
KING OF THE ORANGE ARMY: Verstappen finally felt what it was like to have the whole circuit behind him, his supporters cheered every time he passed the packed grandstands
Max Verstappen never put a foot wrong. The Dutchman led from Pole Position after defending the lead into the opening corner from title-rival Lewis Hamilton. From then, he pulled out a decent lead in the first stint which was controlled come the pit-stops. The title contenders decided early on that the a two-stop strategy would suit them.
At the first round of pit-stops, both Verstappen and Hamilton swapped their Softs for a brand new set of Medium tyres as Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valterri Bottas, stuck it out on track hoping to cause some disruption for when Verstappen caught back up.
In a flash, Verstappen was right back with Bottas and onto Lap 31, the Dutchman pulled out from the slipstream and eased past. With Hamilton close for comfort, Bottas allowed his faster team-mate through.
IN THE ZONE: By the end of the opening lap, Verstappen had a gap of 1.7 seconds to Hamilton but the Brit knew challenging him in the race would be tough as it proved
Pulling the trigger early ahead of the second round of stops, Hamilton exited the pits on a scrubbed set of Medium tyres but emerged in traffic. Pitting the next lap, Verstappen exited up the road ahead of the Brit but on the Hard tyre.
Over the coming laps, Hamilton closed the gap but couldn't get within DRS range. With Hamilton complaining about the tyres, Verstappen could ease to the flag even when the Brit pitted on the penultimate lap to secure the extra point for the Fastest Lap.
"I tell you, Verstappen was fast today. They were on another level today that I genuinely couldn’t answer really to most of those laps." Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
As Verstappen rounded the final corner, the orange flares had already been set off and the crowd were already on their feet. A win on home soil was sweet enough but the victory also meant that the championship had swung back into the Dutchman's favour.
Finishing nearly a minute behind Verstappen, Bottas's one stop race was nothing short of abysmal. Although leading the race for a brief stint, the Finn couldn't keep up with the top two in the opening stint and couldn't close the gap to them when it mattered. The only good thing about his race?
Bottas pitted with two laps to go as he had the space to make a pit-stop and rejoin comfortably. With fresher Soft tyres, Mercedes urged the Finn not to go for the Fastest Lap so Hamilton could gain the point instead. He gave the pit-wall a scare though as his first two sectors of the lap were purple, however in the last sector, he backed off by eight tenths to allow Hamilton to nab the extra point.
"I knew Lewis needed that one point more than me, I was just playing around." Valterri Bottas, Mercedes
One of the stars of yesterday's qualifying session, Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly drove an excellent race to finish where he started. The Frenchman was in the thick of it at the start, dicing with the two Ferrari's but held his ground and pulled clear. He managed his tyres and pace well to cross the line in fourth. Securing 12 points, Gasly moves up into eighth in the championship while Alpha Tauri close on Alpine.
STAR PERFORMANCE: Another excellent result lifts Gasly higher in the standings and the next stop on the F1 calendar in Monza brings back great memories for the Frenchman
The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr were set to finish a solid fifth and sixth until Alpine's Fernando Alonso caught and passed Sainz in the closing laps. Admitting after the race, Sainz was baffled at his lack of pace, especially compared to Leclerc, but the double points for the Scuderia allow them to retake third in the championship in their close fight with McLaren.
The opening few corners of the race were tight with the drivers extremely close to one another. Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, who started an excellent seventh, fell victim to Alonso, Esteban Ocon and the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
The Alpine team-mates, Alonso and Ocon, were running close to each other throughout the majority of the race but in the early stages, Ocon felt he had more pace to offer. Alonso saved his tyres well and unleashed his ultimate pace which left Ocon trailing in his mirrors. The Frenchman ultimately finished ninth behind a rapid Sergio Perez.
Making up after his poor qualifying result, Perez started the race from the pit-lane after changing his gearbox, pulled off numerous and well thoughout overtakes to claim eighth and the Fans 'Driver of the Day'.
MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME: Having been confirmed to remain Verstappen's team-mate next season, Perez showed why they've kept the Mexican with a strong recovery drive
Rounding out the top ten, Lando Norris drove a mature race and waited patiently for the cards to fall his way. Running long in the first stint meant that the young Brit managed to climb inside the top ten after his lowly starting position of 13th to claim the final point.
After such promise in the Practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, Aston Martin ended the race in 12th and 13th with Lance Stroll heading Sebastian Vettel. Stroll was stuck for the majority of the race behind George Russell as the Williams driver made it virtually impossible for the Canadian to overtake. Starting towards the back of the field, Vettel's day was more difficult and a spin mid-race didn't help his progress.
After such an impressive run to seventh in qualifying, Giovinazzi looked to maybe score a point or two as the race played out. The Italian, who normally makes up a lot of ground at the start of races, lost three to run tenth in the opening stint. However, a puncture not long after his first stop dropped him down the order and way out of contention for any points.
Standing in for Giovinazzi's regular team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica made a welcome return to the sport having last raced for Williams at the end of the 2019 Season. The Polish driver stood in for the 2007 World Champion after he tested positive for Covid-19. It was a solid race for Kubica, who's Alfa Romeo's Test and Reserve Driver, to finish in 15th after starting 18th.