Max Verstappen took a convincing win at the 2021 Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix as the home favourite put a smile on the face of the thousands of fans who willed him on in a sea of orange euphoria against the backdrop of the Zandvoort dunes.
The Red Bull driver out qualified title rival Sir Lewis Hamilton by a tight margin on Saturday, but during the race the Dutchman was in a class of his own as he secured a strong start and pulled a gap of over two seconds ahead of the Mercedes by the end of the second lap.
At times it seemed as if Hamilton was beginning to close the gap to the front, but each time it looked as if the champion would threaten the lead Verstappen turned up the pace another notch, and he took the chequered flag 21 seconds ahead of the Brit.
Mercedes tried multiple times to pull a strategic surprise on Red Bull, changing to a two-stop strategy with Hamilton and making the call to run Valtteri Bottas longer on fading tyres in a bid to hold Verstappen up and create an opportunity to take the lead.
However, Red Bull covered off the undercut each time, and after the second attempt Hamilton complained that his team had made a strategic error by putting him onto the medium tyres which he said were struggling to make it to the end, while Verstappen went onto the hard tyre to finish the race.
Ultimately, Mercedes had no reply to the flying Dutchman in front of an ecstatic home crowd, with Hamilton summing it up on the radio by saying: “They’re just so fast, man.”
Mercedes’ day was illustrated by some late confusion when Bottas pushed for an extra point for fastest lap but was told to abort by the team, only to go purple anyway, leaving Hamilton to have to pit once again on the final lap of the race and managing to just secure a crucial point on an otherwise disappointing afternoon.
Struggles for Bottas
Mercedes had hoped that Bottas could aid Hamilton’s cause from third place on the grid, especially after a poor qualifying and change of engine forced the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez to start the race from the pit lane.
But the Finn struggled for pace the entire race and was unable to offer up much at the front of the field, with his issues compounded by a slow pit stop prompted by a check for vibrations that saw him finish nearly a minute behind the leaders.
Perez managed to salvage something for the second Red Bull after a difficult Saturday in which he went out in Q1, the Mexican putting in a number of sterling overtakes on the tricky and tight Zandvoort Circuit to fight back up to P8.
For one of the first times this season the midfield battles failed to throw up any significant drama, despite a solid result for Pierre Gasly who managed to put his AlphaTauri fourth, with Charles Leclerc bringing home fifth place for Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was the pick of the midfield drivers in the Alpine, gaining multiple places to finish in sixth ahead of the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, while Lando Norris managed a strong recovery drive to finish in 10th after a disappointing qualifying session yesterday, just ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Esteban Ocon continued his points scoring streak to finish ninth, while elsewhere Aston Martin were left cold after failing to finish in the top 10 once more, with Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel coming in 12th and 13th respectively.
F1 Dutch GP – Race Results
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:30:05.395|
|4||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+1 Lap|
|5||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|6||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 Lap|
|7||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|8||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+1 Lap|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1 Lap|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||+1 Lap|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1 Lap|
|12||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+2 Laps|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+2 Laps|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+2 Laps|
|15||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo||+2 Laps|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+2 Laps|
|18||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+3 Laps|