Verstappen reigns supreme in Dutch GP

Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Verstappen reigns supreme in Dutch GP

Formula 1

Verstappen reigns supreme in Dutch GP

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Max Verstappen scored an emphatic victory at his home Dutch Grand Prix to retake the world championship lead from second-placed Lewis Hamilton.

The Dutchman’s triumph was never in doubt despite several Mercedes attempts to challenge his grasp on the lead at the pit stops. Hamilton attempted to keep up with the race’s blistering pace with an alternative tire strategy, but his rubber inevitably faded late, allowing the home hero to cruise to a comfortable win.

A perfect start was his foundation, getting away cleanly to control the racing line into the first turn. The second phase of Hamilton’s launch was slower, dropping him into the clutches of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

By the end of the first lap Verstappen had stretched that early lead into a 1.7s advantage, which he eked out to 3.7s when Hamilton pulled the undercut trigger at the end of lap 20, switching to the medium tire.

Verstappen covered on the following lap and rejoined with a lead slashed to 1.9s, the pair now committed to a two-stop strategy.

Bottas was left out in the lead of the race, running to the pre-planned one-stop tactic, which also placed him ahead of the gaining Verstappen and Hamilton on the track as a roadblock.

But the Finn’s aging soft tires meant his defense was limited. He was caught on lap 29, and on lap 30 he ran deep at Turn 11, compromising his run leading through the final banked complex onto the start-finish straight.

That opened the door wide for Verstappen to slipstream into the lead exiting Turn 14, and Bottas yielded to Hamilton at the end of the straight before changing tires at the end of the lap.

The gap stabilized at 1.5s between the front two until Verstappen was told to put his foot down on lap 37, and in a couple of laps he’d rebuilt his lead to more than three seconds in anticipation of a stop. Mercedes pre-empted by bringing Hamilton in at the end of lap 39, but it dropped him into lapped traffic, allowing the Dutchman to cover him easily again, this time growing his advantage by 0.3s.

There was no looking back for Verstappen from there, and he cruised to the flag with a comfortable advantage to take a three-point title lead.

“It’s just incredible,” he said before a rapturous crowd. “Of course the expectations were very high going into he weekend and it’s never easy to fulfill that, but I’m of course so happy to win here and take the lead as well in the championship.

“It’s just an amazing day.”

Hamilton complained over team radio that his second stop came too early, leaving the rubber underutilized, but he admitted the RB16B had been the quicker car this afternoon.

“Honestly, it’s been an amazing weekend,” he said, acknowledging the crowd. “I gave it absolutely everything today, flat out.

“I pushed as hard as I could, but they were just too quick for us.”

Bottas couldn’t keep up with the pace of the front two and was eventually called in for a second stop to make room for Hamilton to make an additional stop of his own to take the point for fastest lap.

The Finn threatened to rebel, setting two fastest sectors as Hamilton came into the pits, but a stern warning from chief strategist James Vowles forced him to desist in the third sector and ultimately commit to the team game.

“We tried, but we didn’t quite have the pace today,” he said. “I didn’t go for the fastest lap, but Lewis got it, so as a team we got solid points.”

Pierre Gasly was excellent in fourth in a strategic battle with pursuing Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

AlphaTauri stopped him early off softs and onto the medium compound to ensure he’d hold track position once the red cars switch, but both Leclerc and Sainz opted for the safer hard compound 10 laps later, earning them a handy tire offset.

But Gasly managed his more delicate rubber flawlessly to keep himself at arm’s distance of the red cars to hold his grid position and bank 12 points, with Leclerc close behind.

Another spirited drive from Pierre Gasly, netted fourth place for AlphaTauri. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Sainz didn’t have his teammate’s pace on the harder rubber and slipped away from the battle for fourth, and by the end of the race he had fallen into the reaches of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who passed him for sixth on the final lap.

Sainz then had to hold seventh against the twin threat of Esteban Ocon and the charging Sergio Perez, who recovered from a pit lane start and bad early flat-spot to rise to 11th with 24 laps remaining.

The Mexican slipped past Ocon with three laps to go but couldn’t make the same impression on the Spaniard, finishing eighth and just half a second short of the Ferrari.

Ocon crossed the line ninth ahead of Lando Norris, who rose strongly from 13th on the grid with a long opening stint on the medium tire. He diced with teammate Daniel Ricciardo after his stop, who has slipped down the order with poor pace on the hard tire, but McLaren eventually ordered the Briton ahead to try to gain further places, albeit in vain.

Ricciardo finished 11th ahead of Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel.

Antonio Giovinazzi led home temporary Alfa Romeo teammate Robert Kubica, while Nicholas Latifi finished 16th ahead of the retired but still classified George Russell and Mick Schumacher.

Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin both retired from the race with technical problems.

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