It’s been 13,159 days since the last Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, which took place in 1985 and was won by the legendary Niki Lauda. This year, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took victory at his home race in a fairly processional race.
Home favorite Max Verstappen had taken pole position, with his nearest Championship challenger Lewis Hamilton in second. Verstappen lined up aiming toward Hamilton in hopes of getting a better start. He had a mindblowing start into the first corner, with Valtteri Bottas chasing down Hamilton. The width of the banking allowed several drivers to run side by side. Most drivers maintained position on the start, with Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo making up places and Antonio Giovinazzi sliding back. Meanwhile, Verstappen had checked out at the lead; by the second lap, he’d built up over a 1.5 second gap over the competition. The cars behind him evened out in single file.
By lap five, it became clear that long runs on the tires would be difficult; the projected on-stop strategy was quickly called into question. Meanwhile, the Alpine teammates were having a close battle for seventh place, which was firmly inhabited by Alonso.
Sergio Perez, who started from the rear of the grid, pitted on lap nine after starting the race on hard tires. He quickly changed his mind. Hamilton then opted to try a two-stop race, leaving him to pit about 10 laps earlier than planned. The goal was to get clear air, which would be integral at Zandvoort. As a result, he came in at lap 21 with a slop stop, coming out of the pits well in front of fourth-place Pierre Gasly. Verstappen responded the following lap, coming out over two seconds ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen began closing the gap between himself and Valtteri Bottas.
It was a fairy similar story to the rest of the year: Verstappen has had the better pace, so when he’s in the lead, he doesn’t need to do much more than react.
Despite his rapidly degrading tires, Mercedes requested that Bottas remain out in order to aim for something close to a one-stopper; that would ideally give Verstappen a chance to catch up to Bottas and get caught up in the dirty air. Verstappen made the pass on lap 31, while Bottas also let Hamilton through to continue the battle.
A brief yellow flag at sector one saw Sebastian Vettel lose control and slide up toward the wall; he did avoid making contact, but Bottas had to take an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision. The flag was cleared quickly.
Hamilton came in for his second stop on lap 40, leaving Hamilton to unfortunately battle his way through a handful of backmarkers. Verstappen responded on the next lap with yet another quick stop, leaving him in the lead.
As the race entered its final 20 laps, Hamilton began to worry that his tires wouldn’t last until the end of the race, though he did consistently set faster and faster laps. Unfortunately, he also ran into lapped traffic, giving Verstappen a chance to build a bigger gap.
The biggest chaos came as Sergio Perez came to pass Lando Norris for ninth place. The two made contact, with their tires touching the bodies of the other driver’s car. Bottas then came in with four laps left for his final pit stop. It, too, was a slow stop, making it a tough weekend for the Mercedes crew. Bottas was instructed to set the fastest lap of the race, then avoid setting it, then set it no matter what
Hamilton also pitted with just two laps left; the goal was for both Mercedes drivers to maintain their positions and aim for fast laps. Hamilton nabbed it on the final lap.
The race proceeded to finish in much the same order.
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
- Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
- Lando Norris (McLaren)