Max Verstappen won on home soil as F1 returned to Zandvoort for the first time since 1985. He reasserted himself and took control of the championship once again with a dominant win in the Dutch Grand Prix, with rival Lewis Hamilton in second, in a race that promised a lot but ultimately turned into a bit of a procession.
Verstappen held his lead from pole, with Hamilton following closely behind. As both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas had qualified in second and third respectively, that gave Mercedes a lot of options to try and deal with Verstappen and net their man a win. It was likely that they’d run two different strategies, but things didn’t go quite as they’d hoped.
On lap 20, with Hamilton running 3.5 seconds behind his rival, he was pitted, a bit too early for a one-stop strategy. The pit was slow, and Red Bull responded a lap later. Bottas was left out to hold the lead and told to defend, but Verstappen soon caught him and passed with ease. Hamilton followed, and was close enough to under-cut for a number of laps, but Mercedes missed the opportunity. Hamilton pitted on lap 39, Verstappen a lap later, and the gap between the two grew and shrunk but never seemed likely to be overcome.
Bottas pitted around four laps from the end for a late pit stop, and was ordered not to go for the fastest lap bonus point – but he did it anyway. Hamilton pitted a lap later for fresh tyres and set the fastest lap, taking the bonus point, but Bottas’ attempt suggested he knows he isn’t long for Mercedes. At the end of the race, Hamilton’s three-point lead became a three-point lead for Verstappen. Bottas came third, while Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc rounded out the top five.
Former world-champion Fernando Alonso drove a measured race to claim sixth place, while Sergio Perez recovered well after a pit lane start to finish in eighth. There was bad news for George Russell after his second-place finish at last week’s ‘race’ – he was handed a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, and then suffered a gearbox issue, ultimately finishing in 17th.
After the race, Verstappen said: “As you can hear already, it is incredible because the expectations were high going into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that. But I’m so happy to win here and to take the lead as well in the championship. It’s just an amazing day with the whole crowd. Incredible.
What a race, what a crowd. It’s been an amazing weekend. Max did an incredible job.
– Lewis Hamilton
“It’s definitely a very good day. The start was very important, I think we did that well. Of course, Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us but we countered them all the time really well. We are pleased with the whole team’s performance today.”
Hamilton said: “What a race, what a crowd. It’s been an amazing weekend. Max did an incredible job so a huge congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, I pushed flat out all race but they were just too good.
“I’ve had an incredible weekend, a big thanks to the fans as they’ve been amazing. The last lap was one of the best parts of the race for me, this track is incredible on a single lap on low fuel – this is now one of my favourite tracks.”
Bottas said: “Unfortunately for me, it was pretty uneventful. Obviously, I kept pushing. We tried a one-stop and a long first stint and tried to survive with the tyres until the end but in the end, we had quite a big gap behind me, so we just made a stop for safety, basically.
“We tried, but we didn’t quite have the pace today. I didn’t go for the fastest lap today. Lewis got it, so as a team, we got the points. The crowd has been really supportive, so thank you.”
Now the championship lead has flipped again, Mercedes will be keen to re-cement their dominance at the Italian Grand Prix next week. Hamilton’s engineer has said that the track suits their car far more – it will need to, because Verstappen’s sheer pace advantage is looking nigh-on unbeatable at the moment.