At least this time there was a race. But the Dutch GP, the 13th stage of the 2021 Formula 1 season, was perhaps the worst race of the year. With no major disputes and very rare overtaking, the highlight this Sunday (5) in Zandvoort was the incredible party of the Dutch fans in the stands. On a circuit praised by the drivers, but bad for overtaking, the race was bad and sleepy, but good, very good, for Max Verstappen. The home driver confirmed his favoritism and took off for his seventh victory of the year and the 17th of his career. With the result, the Red Bull driver returned to the championship lead.
Lewis Hamilton has tried everything. Alongside Mercedes, the seven-time world champion worked with the strategy to try to break the strength of Red Bull and leave Zandvoort with an unlikely victory at his rival’s home. After 72 laps, the Brit had to settle for second place, followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas. Now, in the championship standings, Verstappen has 224.5 points against Hamilton’s 221.5 points thanks to the extra point for the driver’s fastest lap, taken in the last lap of the race.
Pierre Gasly concluded a remarkable weekend with a solid and steady run to hold his starting position and finish fourth. Charles Leclerc was fifth with Ferrari, while Fernando Alonso, in the race, passed Carlos Sainz to finish sixth. Sergio Pérez, having started from the pit-lane, was eighth after passing Esteban Ocon at the end. Lando Norris closed the top-10.
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Find out about the Formula 1 Netherlands GP
The start was the best for the owner of the house. Max Verstappen took advantage of the cleaner and more grippy side of the track, driving well and not taking notice of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes, to celebrate the Dutch crowd in the stands in Zandvoort.
Among the top ten, Fernando Alonso gained two places and moved up to seventh after leaving Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi out at turn 3. The Alfa Romeo driver, who had been aiming to remain seventh after the start, dropped to tenth. Sergio Pérez and Nicholas Latifi started from the pit-lane.
Verstappen continued to set the pace at the start of the race and began to open up a comfortable lead. Alonso and Ocon were fighting for seventh place, even with an interesting dispute in turn 3. And Nikita Mazepin closed Mick Schumacher in the middle of the straight, following the heavy climate inside Haas. The German took the opportunity to go to the pits and anticipate his pit-stop.
‘Czech’ was still in bad shape. The Mexican started with hard tires to try a different strategy at the beginning of the race, but was called by Red Bull to make the pit-stop after destroying the tires in a dispute for position with Mazepin. Pérez returned to the track with medium compounds.
On the tenth lap, Verstappen reached a round mark in Formula 1: 1,000 laps led by the Dutchman in races at the Worlds. Hamilton was still second, while Bottas was already nearly 6s behind his teammate.
Who caught the eye with a daring overtaking maneuver was Nicholas Latifi. Still at the end of the grid, the Canadian was bold in overcoming Mazepin’s Haas and moving up to 16th. Laps later, it was time for ‘Czech’ to finally leave the Russian behind. Robert Kubica, who had been racing his first F1 race since the end of 2019, occupied 15th place and did not compromise.
Despite the actions at the end of the race, the race as a whole was very warm and without major disputes for positions. Only a safety-car intervention could change the scenario of a Sunday that was tedious.
Mercedes called Hamilton to make its first pit-stop on lap 21, indicating a two-stop strategy. Red Bull did the same to Verstappen on the next lap and, to avoid any tactical knot with the undercut, scored Hamilton when pit-stop the Dutchman. The two swapped soft tires for medium ones, but Mercedes did the job 1s slower than its rival.
Bottas took the lead and faced the following strategy: stretching his stint on the track as much as possible and holding on to Verstappen to bring Hamilton closer to Max in the fight for victory. Further back, AlphaTauri called on Pierre Gasly to make his pit-stop, and Ferrari, in another strategy, moved up to fourth and fifth with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, respectively.
Hamilton had better pace on medium tires and managed to reduce the gap to 1.2. Mercedes’ bet was all on Bottas, who played the role defined by the team: hold on to the Dutchman as much as possible.
On lap 30, Max arrived for good in the Finn’s Mercedes #77. And on the next spin, Verstappen lifted the stands by easily beating Bottas to take the lead. Hamilton came close behind, also passing his teammate and following very close to the opponent. Valtteri, unable to help so much in the strategy, stopped to change tires on lap 32.
George Russell was 12th, was in the fight for points, but had to take a penalty of 5s for exceeding the speed limit in the pits. Antonio Giovinazzi, who had dropped to 16th after the first pit-stop, was extremely unlucky because of a puncture and had to make another stop. Alfa Romeo stuck hard tires on the Italian’s car. And Sebastian Vettel, barely all weekend, ran around turn 3, narrowly missed being hit by Bottas and dropped even further to 17th.
Mercedes made another attempt to play with strategy and called Hamilton for a new pit-stop on lap 40. With a pit-stop of 2s5, the team did a good job, but the seven-times champion returned to the track on medium tyres. Red Bull kept their tactic of scoring Hamilton to avoid the undercut and called up Verstappen on the next lap. But the Taureans no longer had new medium tyres, so they opted for the hard compounds.
There were still 30 laps to go and, with the prospect of not stopping any further, Verstappen would have a chance to resist more on the tires than Hamilton.
Nikita Mazepin was the first driver to leave the race. Hydraulic problems took the Russian out of contention when he was second from bottom, just ahead of Schumacher. Shortly after, it was Yuki Tsunoda’s turn to leave the test.
Amidst so many strategies throughout the race, Pérez came in seventh, but the Mexican probably needed another pit-stop and came back in P12. It was Gasly who had a great and stable race, in a solid fourth place ahead of the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. A little further back, Lando Norris passed Daniel Ricciardo and moved up to tenth.
One of the few standouts in the final stage of the race was Pérez, who took tenth place after passing Ricciardo on the outside at the Tarzan corner. Up front, the top-3 was already drawn, and only a huge bad luck would take away from Verstappen the victory at home.
In the final laps, Hamilton followed with the extra point guaranteed for having made the fastest lap of the race, but the seven-times champion complained of tire wear, but managed to stay on track without the need for another pit-stop. Pérez was once again the protagonist of an overtaking by overtaking Norris again on the outside at the Tarzan corner, but the Mexican was closed by the pilot to McLaren, who was unable to avoid the touch.
At the end of the race, Mercedes called Bottas to change tires and put soft compounds in the driver’s car. In theory, the Finn would set off to make the fastest lap, but the team asked the Finn to take his foot off so as not to harm Hamilton. Even so, Valtteri took the extra point from Lewis. The seven-times champion then went to the pits to put on soft tires and try for the fastest lap in the last lap of the race. And Hamilton got back the extra point right on the final lap.
After 72 laps, Max Verstappen consolidated an almost perfect job over the weekend and took a consecrating victory against the huge Dutch crowd. The home driver, by default, returned to the lead of the F1 World Cup.
F1 2021, Netherlands GP, Zandvoort, Final Result:
|1||M VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull Honda||72 laps|
|4||P GASLY||AlphaTauri Honda||+1 back|
|5||C LECLERC||Ferrari||+1 back|
|6||F ALONSO||alpine||+1 back|
|7||C SAINZ||Ferrari||+1 back|
|8||S PEREZ||Red Bull Honda||+1 back|
|9||AND OCON||alpine||+1 back|
|10||NORRIS||McLaren Mercedes||+1 back|
|11||D RICCIARDO||McLaren Mercedes||+1 back|
|12||L STROLL||Aston Martin Mercedes||+2 laps|
|13||S VETTEL||Aston Martin Mercedes||+2 laps|
|14||THE GIOVINAZZI||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||+2 laps|
|15||R KUBICA||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||+2 laps|
|16||NO LATIFI||Williams Mercedes||+2 laps|
|17||G RUSSELL||Williams Mercedes||+3 laps|
|18||M SCHUMACHER||Haas Ferrari||+3 laps|
|19||Y TSUNODA||AlphaTauri Honda||NC|
|20||N MAZEPIN||Haas Ferrari||NC|
|VMR||L HAMILTON||Mercedes||1:11,097||Turn 72|