Max Verstappen says it is “an incredible feeling” to win the Dutch Grand Prix in front of the King of the Netherlands and his expectant home fans.
Amid a party atmosphere at Zandvoort, Verstappen was the star attraction and received huge ovations wherever he went, with his pre-race obligations including a meeting with Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Once the lights went out, he duly converted pole position into his seventh of the victory of the season, and the Dutchman admits it was a special emotion to be able to win and regain the championship lead in front of such a crowd.
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“I know the fans of course have high expectations — when you come here they want you to win, but it is never that straightforward before you get here,” Verstappen said. “You’ve seen this whole year already, Mercedes and us have been really close.
“To deliver at the end of the day, very satisfied yesterday already with pole but to win the race, what was crucial today was the start and then managing that gap so they couldn’t undercut us, but an incredible feeling to win in front of the fans, the King was watching as well with the family — an amazing day.”
Verstappen says the close attentions of Lewis Hamilton for much of the race meant he couldn’t relax even though he kept the Mercedes driver at bay throughout.
“The whole race was quite close between myself and Lewis — he was really putting the pressure on. He was putting in some great laps after the final stops, at one point on mediums and I was on the hard tire; but yeah, luckily it was enough at the end. But 72 laps around here pushing was satisfying, it was cool.”
The pressure from Mercedes meant Verstappen couldn’t afford to be distracted by the rest of the weekend, but he says he’s never had a problem with getting his mind on the job when he’s racing.
“I’ve been always very focused. I know I have to focus on the driving, that has been quite straightforward, but of course naturally there are more distractions — especially on the grid or when you drive out there’s more of a crowd, but we are professional enough to focus on our job once we are in the car.”