Max Verstappen has treated the massively present Dutch fans at Zandvoort to his tenth victory of the season. The Dutchman did not receive the victory, but was able to drive away from George Russell and Charles Leclerc in the final phase after a sprint to the finish.
At Zandvoort, where the sun had to make way for clouds, the Red Bulls and Ferraris were again preparing for a mutual battle. None of those teams wanted to take any chances and started on the soft tire while the Mercedes, Lando Norris and Mick Schumacher were the four drivers in the top ten who went for the medium.
From pole position, supported by the tens of thousands of Dutch fans in attendance, Verstappen had an excellent start before taking the lead, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in batting order behind him. Lewis Hamilton did try on the inside of Sainz in the Tarzan corner, but he got away with a light touch.
Someone who also got away with light contact was Kevin Magnussen in the Gerlach corner. He landed on the dirt and tapped the TecPro, but was able to continue on with the somewhat battered Haas.
Fumbling at Ferrari
Up front, Verstappen was unable to repeat the Spa-Francorchamps trick. Leclerc bit into the Red Bull of the home hero, although the Dutchman gradually ended up on the Monegask. Team-mate Sainz had to look in his mirrors because Hamilton put him under pressure on the mediums.
On lap 15 of 72, Sainz came in for his pit stop, although he seemed unprepared. The left rear tire was not ready after which Pérez crossed the wheel gun of the pit crew. Another blunder at Ferrari, where Sainz now suddenly faced a more difficult task than expected.
Three laps later, Leclerc came in for his pit stop, which was over 10 seconds faster than his teammate’s stop at 2.5 seconds. A lap later, Verstappen defended his track position by making his pit stop, trading the soft tire for the medium.
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Mercedes gets involved in battle
At Mercedes they were preparing for a one-stop, going on the hard tire until the end. Surprisingly, that compound turned out to work well for the team. That led to some calculations at Red Bull, where Verstappen already asked about the pace of Mercedes on the on-board radio. Pérez, meanwhile, was again troubled by the pressure from Hamilton, who quickly crept towards the RB18. The Mexican defended for a round, but then had no chance against the Mercedes with DRS.
Verstappen saw the gap shrink considerably, knowing that he still had to make a pit stop. That opportunity seemed to come because of Yuki Tsunoda’s stranded AlphaTauri, but he was suddenly able to continue on his way, allowing Verstappen to continue. Moments later, after a pit stop, it turned out that there was still something wrong with that car and the Japanese still provided a virtual safety car.
That offered Verstappen the chance to still make that pit stop for the hard tire, without losing too much time. Both Mercedes decided to counter by going to the mediums. The gaps were again large, although it was still an excellent strategy for Mercedes, which was on the double podium.
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The fact that a few laps later the actual safety car came onto the track for Valtteri Bottas’ stranded Alfa Romeo before turn 1, made for a strategic game of chess. Verstappen pitted for the soft tire while Hamilton and Russell continued on the mediums. Moments later, when everyone had to drive through the pit lane behind the safety car, Russell switched to the soft tire after all, while Hamilton, in the lead, remained on the mediums.
At the restart, Verstappen did not have to wait long to regain the lead from Hamilton. He then set the fastest lap time and was able to easily drive away from Hamilton, who now had to fear for Russell and Leclerc. Russell dealt with his team-mate after which Hamilton also hit Leclerc and finished off the podium after a promising race.
Meanwhile, Pérez went on the hunt for Sainz, who struggled on his tires and wasn’t having a great race anyway. Sainz defended tooth and nail and after an action in the Tarzan corner, Pérez fell back into Fernando Alonso’s lap. Sainz, however, had been given a time penalty for a unsafe release and although he crossed the line in fifth, he finished eighth.
Verstappen on roses
For Verstappen, the second title is becoming more and more inevitable. The Dutchman takes the full 26 points and extends his lead over Leclerc and Pérez, who are both on 201 points, to a generous 109 points. With seven races to go, Ferrari needs a miracle to keep Verstappen from that second title.