Verstappen Wins at Home!

Verstappen Wins at Home!

Max Verstappen wins the Dutch Grand Prix for the second year in a row! It is his tenth win of the season, already matching his win total from last year’s championship run. Though he started on pole, Sunday’s win was not a foregone conclusion. Throughout the race, Mercedes executed an excellent one stop strategy, while Ferrari once again found new ways to falter. It wasn’t until the yellow flags started flying, that the Mercedes strategy began to stall. Red Bull remained steady thru out the race. Verstappen’s crew masterfully took advantage of the yellow flags, beating Mercedes at their own game, while Verstappen himself overpowered the field with his powerful Red Bull ride.

Circuit Zandvoort is situated on the North Sea, in North Holland. The track itself has fourteen turns on only 2.6 miles of asphalt. Given its location amongst the sand dunes, every turn has banking, rises and falls. The track itself looks like a drivers dream, though you can only reach your max speed about 60% of the track.

It didn’t take long for the race to get interesting. The starting grid included Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton in the top four. The top four remained so until lap 14, when Ferrari decided to pit Sainz due to his severe tire degradation. The pit crew managed to select the wrong tire for the rear left. As they made the shift, a spare drill was left in the path of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull. The pit stop took 12 seconds instead of the customary 2.5 and Ferrari will likely suffer a monetary penalty for the safety violation. Sainz never recovered his top three position. In fact, his car managed to lose time as the race went on, signaling yet another problem with his engine. Unfortunately, that was not the end to Ferrari’s troubles. Sainz pitted under a yellow flag during lap 58. The team didn’t ensure his path was clear, and he was penalized for an unsafe release as he nearly clipped another car on pit lane. He was penalized five seconds dropping him to eighth place at the conclusion of the race. While Leclerc managed a third-place finish, Ferrari still finds ways to get in their own way, preventing them from maximizing their potential.

Mercedes strategy at the end of Sunday’s race will be discussed for many weeks to come. They were in line for possible one, two finishes until the race was yellow flagged at lap 55 due to Valterri Botta’s Alpha Romeo engine failure. Verstappen pitted for a third time in the race and switched to the soft tire. When he left pit lane, he was in third. Mercedes opted to leave Hamilton out, though he had more tire wear. However, they opted to pit Russell, during lap 58 while still under the yellow flag, allowing him to change to the soft tire as well. He exited pit lane behind Verstappen. This strategy was a head scratcher. Toto Wolf said that he left Hamilton out to give him the best chance to win and that he allowed Russell to change his tires because he figured Russell would be overtaken anyway. He further stated that if he pitted Hamilton then Hamilton was sure to lose the race. I fail to see his logic. Two cars are harder to pass then one. Lewis Hamilton knows that. Everyone watching knows that. Further, had he pitted Hamilton, he could have assured Mercedes two podium finishes instead of the one they earned. Wolf’s failure was thinking that he could win the race. He should have focused on maximizing team points by securing two podiums. When the race returned to the green flag, Verstappen caught a draft from the cars stacking up behind him, and he overtook Hamilton on the long straight heading into turn one. Three laps later, teammate George Russell overtook an already frustrated Hamilton. Then at lap 66, Leclerc overtook Hamilton effectively ending the seven-time winners podium hopes. Hamilton was furious. Rightfully so. Toto Wolf and Mercedes mishandled the end of the race, gifting Leclerc a third-place finish. How is that for a twist? Ferrari actually benefited from the Mercedes poor strategy call.

Looking at the best of the rest, George Russell earned the fasted lap. Alpine managed another two-car top ten finish. Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari all finished in the points, with Lance Stroll driving his Aston Martin to tenth place. Charles Leclerc edges Sergio Perez out for 2nd place in the Drivers Championship standings. Though they each have 210 points, Leclerc has more race wins. Russell sits at 188 points while Sainz has 175 points. Second thru Fifth is a tight race, but 110 points separate Leclerc to championship leader Verstappen.

Max Verstappen and Redbull continue their dominance of the season. Notably, during lap 40 of the race, Verstappen passed Nicki Lauda to enter the top ten drivers in Formula 1 history for the most laps led in a Formula 1 race. With seven races to go, Formula 1 heads to Italy next week.

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