The return of the Zandvoort Circuit to Formula 1 after 36 years of absence had just one Dutchman as the winner. In the Dutch GP event this Sunday, Max Verstappen was sovereign throughout practically the entire weekend before the orange wall in the stands and won his seventh victory in the 2021 season, without allowing for the attacks of rival Lewis Hamilton – who still saw the Dutchman regain the lead in the drivers’ championship. Valtteri Bottas, teammate of the seven-time champion, came in third.
Max Verstappen, from RBR, in front of orange fans at the Netherlands GP — Photo: Clive Rose – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Starting from pole position alongside Hamilton, Verstappen took the lead in the first few meters of the race and managed the end-to-end position, temporarily losing the lead only at the stops. Although the advantage over his rival during the dispute was not discrepant, the Dutchman managed more rhythm to repel Mercedes’ attempts at strategy.
The triumph is also the 17th in the RBR driver’s career, who already came from a victory in last week’s stage, at the Belgian GP. With 25 points, he cancels the three-point difference he had for Hamilton and, even with the opponent’s fastest lap, recovers the lead in the drivers’ championship, totaling 224.5 points against 221.5. Bottas, with third place, overcame Lando Norris and took third place in the table.
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Mercedes, on the other hand, benefited from the problems of Sergio Pérez, a colleague of Verstappen at RBR. The Mexican, who started from the pitlane, made a good recovery race to finish tenth and was named driver of the day. Even so, the seven-time constructor champion added more points with her partner and maintained the lead in the World Teams Championship with 345.5 points against 329.5 for the Austrian rival.
The 14th stage of the 2021 season of Formula 1 will be next Sunday, 12, with the Italian GP at the Autodromo de Monza.
Netherlands GP result — Photo: F1
VERSTAPPEN: “The expectations here were so high and it’s not always easy. But it’s an amazing feeling and the crowd here was amazing, as you can see. We can be very pleased with the performance of the whole team today.”
HAMILTON: “What a race, what a crowd, it was an amazing weekend. Max did an amazing job, congratulations to him.”
BOOTS: “We tried a one-stop strategy so it was a long journey for me at first. In the end, we didn’t have enough pace to bother RBR. The crowd here has been really good all weekend and very supportive so I mean thanks”.
Unlike the last two races, the start was calm and changed little the dynamics defined by the classification this Saturday. Max Verstappen fired ahead, with no chance for Lewis Hamilton in second to attack; behind, Valtteri Bottas brushed against his Mercedes partner, but retracted the car and kept third place, as well as Pierre Gasly in fourth, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in fifth and sixth.
Netherlands F1 GP — Photo: Reuters
The main change came from seventh place, previously occupied by Antonio Giovinazzi; the Italian of Alfa Romeo, was immediately passed by Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, dropping to tenth ahead of George Russell.
1. Verstappen was able to quickly establish a gap of, on average, 3s5 over Hamilton. However, the seven-times champion held the disadvantage and stayed close to his rival, as did Bottas, threatening the RBR pilot’s strategic possibilities in his first stops.
2. As well as the start, the first laps of the race were calm. In one of the few clashes at the time, the Alpine duo rehearsed a dispute, with Ocon eyeing teammate Alonso’s seventh place. The Frenchman came to touch the two-time champion, trying to pass outside, but was unable to overtake and complained about the Spanish’s slowness on the track.
3. Sergio Pérez, from RBR, started out of the pitlane after changing power unit components, but began to rehearse a recovery run in search of points; After changing tires on lap 9, the Mexican overcame Nikita Mazepin, Nicholas Latifi, Robert Kubica, Yuki Tsunoda and, later on, came in tenth place with the first car stops in the middle of the grid.
4. From the 20th turn onwards, the leaders put the strategies into action. First, on lap 21, it was Hamilton’s turn to switch from soft to medium tires and come back in third place. On the next lap, Verstappen made the same choice of tires and managed to come back ahead of his rival and behind Valtteri Bottas, with almost 10s behind.
5. After the first round of pit stops, the differences between the leaders started to decrease. Hamilton was already 1s5 behind Verstappen, who in turn began to reduce the gap on provisional leader Bottas with each lap.
On the main straight, the trio found themselves on the track and the RBR driver managed to overtake the Finn to regain the lead, taking advantage of the extreme wear on the tires of the second Mercedes car. Bottas made way for his teammate to take second place.
6. Sebastian Vettel had a small scare on lap 38, when he ran alone at turn 3 and raised a light yellow flag on the stretch. Bottas had to dodge the Aston Martin car, which managed to get back on track and continue in 16th place.
7. Near the last 20 laps, the race has two casualties: first, Nikita Mazepin, who left the race with hydraulic problems, and Yuki Tsunoda, who withdrew after complaining of loss of engine power.
8. With just over ten laps to go in the race, Hamilton manages to manage the gap to Verstappen, who is less than 3s. However, the Brit has not yet achieved the necessary approach to the rival.
9. In the final laps of the race, when only the top three were on the same lap, Mercedes decided to go after the fastest lap. First, it stopped Bottas in a slow pit stop, lasting 5s. The second attempt, with Hamilton, was worth the extra point that helped to reduce his deficit to Verstappen in the championship.