Zandvoort (dpa) – In the orange smoke of Zandvoort, Max Verstappen climbed onto his Red Bull and was triumphantly celebrated by the freaky party people.
Sweaty and marked by an exhausting and nerve-wracking Dutch Grand Prix, the Formula 1 champion enjoyed his next masterpiece towards defending his title in front of more than 100,000 fans. In the audience, Mama Sophie, sister Victoria and partner Kelly dreamily filmed the ceremony on the podium.
“We had to fight the whole race,” said Verstappen amid the cheers of his countless supporters. “It’s always something very special to win your home race. It was great last year, but I had to work even harder this time.”
Red Bull team boss Hörner: “It was a mega ride”
The 24-year-old didn’t let himself be stopped by attacks from the Silver Arrows, who had regained their strength, or a final safety car phase, and ultimately steered confidently to his tenth win of the season in the 15th race. “It was a mega ride,” said team manager Christian Horner.
On Sunday, Verstappen relegated George Russell in the Mercedes to second place, third was Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari ahead of record world champion Lewis Hamilton , who had to bury his hopes of the first win after around nine months in the Silver Arrow due to wrong tire selection in the final phase.
“Of course I’m very happy when the race goes like this,” said father Jos Verstappen, who followed the thriller in the motorhome. “It was exciting, we all didn’t know how it would end.”
Verstappen further extended his lead in the classification. With a total of 310 points, he now has 109 points more than Leclerc and his own teammate Sergio Perez. “The gap is too big, I think,” admitted Monegasse. There are still seven races.
Mick Schumacher did not get past 13th place in the eventful race in the Netherlands in the Haas after a strong qualification, Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel was 14th.
Verstappen did not disappoint his fans at the start. He had secured pole with a splendid lap at the last minute in front of Leclerc on Saturday. When the red lights went out on Sunday, Verstappen pulled directly from the outside in front of the red Ferrari to steer into the first corner in front of Monegassen of the same age. The plan worked, although Leclerc had an even better reaction time at the start of 0.25 seconds than Verstappen’s 0.27 seconds.
Like Hamilton, among others, Schumacher had put on the somewhat harder medium tires at the start of the race, but initially got off to a bad start and after his strong qualifying session with eighth place, he lost two places. After 19th place on the grid, buddy Vettel tried to work his way forward in what was again a rather dreary episode of his farewell tour. He was beaten in a wheel-to-wheel duel with Schumacher.
Ferrari chaos at the pit stop
At the front, Verstappen initially drove ahead and ultimately did everything right in a complicated race. Unlike Ferrari. When Carlos Sainz changed a tire, the left rear wheel was not ready. “The pit stop was a mess,” admitted team boss Mattia Binotto that the mechanics had been informed too late. And that a week before the home race in Monza.
But even with Schumacher, there was a huge problem. “The jack stayed up,” explained team manager Günther Steiner. The stop lasted ten seconds instead of the usual three seconds. Things went better for Verstappen, who came back on the track in front of Leclerc after his tire change.
He had already won his home race at the Formula 1 comeback in Zandvoort a year ago. And this time Verstappen struck, who is in a league of his own this season and has discarded the wild uncompromisingness of the past. No matter what happened, he and his team responded correctly.
The choice of tire compound decides the race
Initially also favored by a virtual safety car phase, when Verstappen was leading, but it was clear that he would not last as long on his tire compound as Hamilton behind him. In the so-called VSC, Verstappen had the hard tyres, Hamilton now put on the somewhat softer and therefore faster tyres.
The showdown over the last 20 laps was on, but Hamilton was a good twelve seconds behind Verstappen. Then, a few laps later, the safety car had to go out, Hamilton’s ex-colleague Valtteri Bottas had stopped with his Alfa Romeo. With that, the Verstappen lead was gone. What to do? The Dutchman had the softest tires put on for the finale. Unlike Russell, Hamilton didn’t get them.
“It’s going to be difficult to keep the car behind me,” the Brit promptly radioed to the pits, looking at Verstappen. As soon as it started again in Zandvoort, Verstappen raced past Hamilton. And the now enraged Brit was then overtaken by Russell and Leclerc on their slower, harder tyres, while Verstappen delivered another driving and strategic feat. “An incredible weekend and I’m really happy that we have the Dutch Grand Prix,” said Verstappen.
© dpa-infocom, dpa:220904-99-628738/7