Verstappen Wins at Home!

Max Verstappen continues to make history.  His ninth victory in a row ties Sebastian Vettel and Alberto Ascari.  Verstappen also notched his third victory in a row at Zandvoort, his home track.  Finally, this is his 11th victory of the year and there are more on the way.



It was a wet weekend in Zandvoort.  Qualification was completed on almost exclusively intermediate tires to maximize grip on a wet track.  The only surprises in qualification occurred when Lewis Hamilton didn’t make it out of Q2, and Logan Sargeant made it to Q3.  Sargeant is the first American to start in the top ten of a Formula 1 race in 30 years.  Unfortunately, Sargeant wrecked his Williams with eight minutes left in qualification.  A second red flag waived when Charles Leclerc ran his Ferrari into the barriers ending his qualification day as well.  Q3 troubles for Sargeant and Leclerc, forecasted their race day today.  Despite ill omens, qualification results featured six different teams in the top six grid spots including Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams, Aston Martin and Ferrari.


The Start

The rain dictated the start and end of the race.  Many thought Lando Norris would challenge Verstappen to turn one as McLaren’s pace is catching up with Red Bull.  Verstappen rocketed ahead of the grid living Norris in the dust heading into the first round of turns.  As the grid made its way around the track, the rain began to fall.  Fernando Alonso started fifth but as the grid rounded turn one he was hot on George Russell’s tail while attempting to pass Alex Albon.  Alonso was forced back behind Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.  Heading into turn three, Alonso again searched for a different line, diving to the inside passing Williams and Mercedes ahead of him moving him into third right behind Lando Norris’s McLaren!

The rain pounded the track heavily as the grid rounded the last corner of lap one.  Who was going to pit?  Sergio Perez.  Red Bull brought Perez in, and he was the first driver on the grid to change to intermediates.  Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly followed closely behind.  Ferrari wasn’t ready for Leclerc to come in.  Leclerc stated he was coming in as he hit pit the lane, and Ferrari wasn’t paying attention and responded with “stay out”.  Apparently, they were still drinking their lap one latte’s.  Leclerc suffered for Ferrari’s lack of preparedness and attention to detail.  Their spotter was asleep at the wheel and Leclerc’s pit stop was several seconds longer than it needed to be causing him to tumble down the grid.  Later in the race he suffered front wing damage and eventually was forced to retire from the race.


Effect of Strategy

Perez started working his way thru the grid.  He left the pits 14th and 26 seconds behind the leader who was also his teammate.  Many of the teams thought it was best to leave their drivers on track with the soft tires.  As lap three started, Verstappen and Alonso pitted and changed to intermediate tires.  Later, as lap three ended, Sergio Perez was the new race leader as he drove circles around the drivers who remained on slicks.

McLaren’s main mistake was not pitting when the Red Bull’s did.  Had they done so, both drivers would have finished the race higher on the grid than seventh and ninth respectively.  At multiple times throughout the race Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri scored fastest laps, however they were so far down the grid they couldn’t challenge the front runners.

Fernando Alonso drove a masterful race.  When he came out of the pits at the end of lap three, he was seventh.  He eventually put himself in position to finish second overall.

Fernando Alonso of Spain celebrates an the podium after he placed second in the Formula One Dutch Grand Prix, at the Zandvoort racetrack, in Zandvoort, Netherlands, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Though Verstappen came out of the pits fifth at the end of lap three, he didn’t take long to pass up his competition.  By lap seven he was right behind his teammate and firmly in second place.  At lap 12 Red Bull made the call to bring Verstappen in and change back to slicks.  They made him undercut his teammate as they called Perez in during lap 13.  The commentators for the race criticized this decision.  Verstappen would have passed Perez eventually and the risks involved in passing on a wet track can be avoided by orchestrating an undercut.  Red Bull made the right call.


The End

The race calmed down until lap 61 when the rain came back.  Perez and Alonso pitted to change to intermediate tires and Verstappen followed suit along with many other drivers during lap 62.  During lap 63, Perez’s front brakes locked up sending him into the runoff area and allowing Alonso to pass him by.  Perez was able to rejoin the grid in third.  Red Bull called him into the pits and as he was about to exit pit lane, the race was red flagged.

Once the race returned to green flag racing during lap 67 the starting order was Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Gasly, Sainz, Hamilton, Norris and Russell.  Norris and Russell raced each other hard, colliding and causing damage to Russell’s Mercedes.  Russell gamely continued to race until he suffered a puncture causing him to tumble down the grid and retire his car.  Russell’s retirement was the fourth after Sargeant’s lap 16 shunt, Leclerc’s retirement and Zhou Guanyu’s lap 64 shunt.

The last few laps were very exciting as we watched Hamilton attempt to overtake Sainz’s Ferrari multiple times.  The Spaniard held him off for five laps to finish fifth.  Perez was handed a five second penalty for speeding in the pit lane causing him to finish fourth.  Gasly stayed right on Perez’s rear wing to secure his third-place podium finish.  Red Bull, Aston Martin and Alpine were represented on the podium at the end of the race.

Overall Zandvoort was a very exciting race.  Rain tends to put most teams on an equal playing field.  But, as recent history has shown, there is no equal playing field when Max Verstappen is behind the wheel of a Red Bull.

One final note.  Today’s race was Liam Lawson’s debut.  He stood in for Daniel Ricciardo who broke his finger during a practice run.  Lawson crashed out during qualification.  However, he managed to finish the race 13th.  He had a great drive overall.  On to Monza!



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