A fantastically exciting qualifying session at Zandvoort saw six different teams represented in the top six of the grid for the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix – but who’ll pick up the silverware on Sunday?
There’s likely not much that can stop Max Verstappen taking a record-equalling ninth win in a row, the Dutchman was half a second ahead of second-placed Lando Norris in qualifying while only three other drivers were within a second of his pole time.
Verstappen enjoys a similarly comfortable advantage on race simulations too, so despite the potential for rain-induced uncertainty he’s the 1/5 odds-on favourite to take a third successive victory at his home race.
But it should be a fascinating battle behind. Norris will hope for his third podium in four races while Carlos Sainz and George Russell are gunning for their first of the season, Aston Martin look back to their best and Alex Albon‘s a complete wildcard in fourth.
Who will prevail?
Who dares wins with one or two-stop conundrum
The 2022 Dutch GP saw most teams opt for a three-stop strategy despite how difficult it is to overtake around Zandvoort.
However, Pirelli expect strategists to pick between one or two stops this time around, with cooler temperatures offsetting the softer tyres in 2023.
A hard-medium one-stop will offer track position on the tight and twisty track but the soft has looked competitive so far across the weekend and a two-stop could be the better option overall.
Oscar Piastri and Charles Leclerc start eighth and ninth so their teams should look at sticking them on the more aggressive medium/softs strategy and hope they can make up positions quickly.
McLaren seem to have the edge on Mercedes and Ferrari on race pace, but Aston Martin looked very competitive on Lance Stroll‘s FP2 long run and Alonso should be well-placed to pick up his podium since the Canadian GP.
And what of Williams? They were very good in free practice, keeping pace with McLaren, and the wheels are yet to fall off their weekend so far. An Albon podium still sounds like a long shot but don’t count it out, while Logan Sargeant is very well-placed to challenge for his first points of the season too.
What about rain?
There’s a real divergence in rain likelihood for Sunday afternoon, with some forecasts predicting a 75% chance of a downpour, others 25%.
If rain does come in it’s likely to be light showers, and drivers will need to nail the jump to intermediates.
Verstappen, Norris, Russell and Alonso have all proven they’re in the top tier of F1’s rain gods while Albon and Sainz aren’t far behind in that regard either.
The dry-intermediate tyre crossover point looks to be in the high one-minute-teens based on qualifying, where there was the usual problem of a dry line on track but next to no grip outside of that.
However, Zandvoort doesn’t have the geographic spread of some other circuits so any rain is likely to cover the whole area of the track pretty quickly especially given the high-speed winds gusting in off the North Sea coast.
Regardless, the threat of rain could force more teams to push for a one-stop to avoid being caught out by a surprise shower straight after pitting for more slicks.