ZANDVOORT, The Netherlands- Small rain showers and a huge deluge during Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix did not stop Max Verstappen from taking his ninth consecutive victory, as the Dutchman triumphed in front of his home fans with a 3.7 second win over Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. For the veteran Spaniard, it was his first podium in two months. Pierre Gasly joined them for the first time in two seasons by placing third in his new team, Alpine.
“Incredible and today they didn’t make it easy for us with the weather to make all the right calls but incredibly proud, I already had goosebumps when they were playing the national anthem before the start.” Verstappen recalled afterwards. “Even with all the bad weather and the rain the fans were still going at it, so an incredible atmosphere.”
Verstappen took the lead early after McLaren’s Lando Norris fell back. But it did not take long for a small shower to change the minds of most of the drivers, as many on the grid pitted for intermediates. Verstappen was not one of them, but his pit crew did adopt a tactic to undercut his teammate, Sergio Perez, once Verstappen did pit.
But when Perez finally pitted after having the lead, Verstappen found himself back into first, only to have it interrupted on lap 16 when Williams American entry Logan Sargant crashed into turn eight, bringing out the safety car. Once the action resumed, Verstappen moved back into the lead as the second shower was only 10 minutes from approaching the circuit but was very light. By lap 43, Verstappen now had a seven second lead over Perez and with 15 laps to go, a predicted heavy rainstorm struck the track, which had many hesitate whether they should remain with intermediates to change to full wets. Only Alpine’s Esteban Ocon made this decision to do so. After a few minutes, many cars were sliding off the circuit, and when it became too evident that even with the safety car out again and an accident by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu at Tarzan corner, the race was stopped for 40 minutes so the barrier that Guanyu struck could be repaired.
But with the suspension of the race, Perez had been in the pits and since the race was red flagged, the Mexican could not exit the pits. But Perez lucked out as the officials placed him in third for the restart but his position for second was now to Alonso.
The restart after a couple of laps behind the safety car had Verstappen remain back in front with Alonso closing in. But the Dutchman held his own, taking the race ahead of Alonso by just over four seconds., Perez was third but was penalized while in the pits five seconds for speeding, which put him behind the third place Gasly.
Carlos Sainz finished fifth in his Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes took sixth. Seventh went to Norris, with Williams Alex Albon eighth. McLaren had two drivers in the top ten with Oscar Piastri ninth, as well as Alpine, with Ocon finishing in tenth.
Besides Sargant and Guanyu retiring, two others followed with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc out with a broken floor on lap 42, and laps from the end, Mercedes George Russell exited the race after colliding with Norris at the restart with a tyre puncture.
When asked about breaking the record of nine wins in a row which he could do next week at Monza, Verstappen was quick to react.
“I’m going to enjoy this weekend,” he said. “It’s always tough, the pressure is always on to perform and very happy of course to win here.”
By Mark Gero