With a third of the race over, almost 14 seconds separated Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. The latter was going so fast, his goal was clear: pass, win. But then Yuki Tsunoda reported problems, he had previously stood at the side of the track, pitted, then got out again – to end the Dutch Grand Prix prematurely on the 48th lap on a green strip. The virtual safety car deployed, which helped Verstappen. He was able to pit for fresh tires without any problems, Hamilton followed him and radioed his assessment: “The virtual safety car slowed us down.”
And then the virtual safety car became a real safety car when Valtteri Bottas stopped after 55 laps. Verstappen pitted again, Hamilton led, but knew: “It will be difficult to keep the guy behind me in check.” The answer followed shortly after the race had been restarted after 60 laps: Verstappen effortlessly passed the Mercedes in his Red Bull on the start-finish straight – and should not be defeated at the Circuit Park Zandvoort.
In the 15th race of the season, the 24-year-old world champion clinched his tenth victory ahead of Mercedes driver George Russell and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, who had overtaken Hamilton on laps 64 and 66 respectively with fresher tires. “I can’t believe it, guys! I’m so damn pissed off!” Funked Hamilton – who finished fourth in the Grand Prix. Mick Schumacher was 13th, Sebastian Vettel 14th. World champion Verstappen (310) leads the overall standings by 109 points over Leclerc (201). “They threw everything at us, but we made the right decisions,” said Verstappen on the lap of honor after his commanding start-finish victory in front of more than 100,000 spectators.
A pit stop by Mick Schumacher lasts ten seconds
The 24-year-old got his starting place in the sun at the last minute on Saturday. Leclerc had been ahead until the final lap, then Verstappen passed by a mini-lead of 0.021 seconds – accompanied by the cheers of his fans, who whitewashed the course by the sea with their paraphernalia in orange all weekend and made the Grand Prix a party , as is the case at hardly any other Formula 1 location. “It was incredible,” said Verstappen after his fourth pole of the year and his 17th overall. Third was Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz, Hamilton fourth.
Mick Schumacher had the eighth best time, which is not unimportant given his uncertain future in Formula 1 . His contract with Haas is expiring, team boss Günther Steiner also emphasized in Zandvoort that he sees no reason to rush. Five cockpits are still available for 2023. What Sebastian Vettel will no longer deal with, after this season he will end his career, on Sunday he started 19th.
Verstappen got away well and pulled straight down the middle to ward off Leclerc’s initial attack. The Dutchman remained in the lead, followed by the two Ferraris . Hamilton wanted to add another color to the top three cars at the first corner. When he tried to overtake, his left front tire touched the Ferrari Sainz, it got bumpy for a moment, but the order didn’t change. After the first lap, the 20 drivers raced past the spectators as if lined up on a string. After two laps, Vettel made up two places and Schumacher lost two places.
On the eleventh lap Vettel started the tire change, when Schumacher made a turn two laps later, the pit stop went wrong and lasted ten seconds. But that was surpassed by the Scuderia, who so often looked unhappy this season. When Sainz wanted fresh tires on lap 15, he stood 12.7 seconds. In fact, a tire was missing – and however that was possible, the responsible mechanic on the left rear didn’t notice it at first. While Sainz stood and waited, Perez, parked behind him, drove out of the pits and, yes, indeed, ran over a Ferrari impact wrench that was in the way. Porca miseria! “It was just a mess, the mechanics weren’t ready and were informed too late,” said team boss Mattia Binotto on Sky.
Meanwhile, Verstappen reported: “The tires are not bad”, while Leclerc announced: “The tires are not too good”, so the latter also turned off. This time the stop was successful. Verstappen followed him, which brought the two Mercedes right to the front. Hamilton led in front of Russell, followed by Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez and Sainz. After 27 of 72 laps, the Silver Arrows were still on the medium tires they started with. A turn later, Russell was no longer able to defend himself against Verstappen, who picked up Hamilton’s trail. Last season, Verstappen won the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years, the first Dutchman to do so, and he saw no reason why he shouldn’t be the winner again.
He didn’t even have to get involved in a duel with Hamilton, after 30 laps the seven-time world champion also had to pit. Now Verstappen led the field again. Russell swerved after 32 laps and fell behind his teammates. On the fresh rubber, the Mercedes almost flew across the track, Hamilton got closer and closer to Perez, in the 36th lap he had him and dueled with him in the first corner, Perez kept one pass in front of him, then Hamilton came in the same place but over. The first drivers had been lapped at this point. Mercedes was going fast, Hamilton had Verstappen firmly in his sights and was getting closer and closer – and who knows how this race would have ended if the virtual and real safety car hadn’t come onto the track.