Verstappen triumphs at home to reclaim F1 championship lead

6th September 2021, 2:25am
6 min read
Verstappen triumphs at home to reclaim F1 championship lead
Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool
  • Max Verstappen back on top of F1 World Championship after home win
  • Dutchman wins first F1 event at Zandvoort in 36 years
  • Red Bull driver now leads points standings by three points

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985 to retake the lead in the F1 World Championship on Sunday.

The Dutchman won on home soil to the delight of 70,000 orange-clad fans after dominating his home race, having taken pole and led the majority of the contest. 

Lewis Hamilton was second for Mercedes, and minimised the damage done in the championship by taking the bonus point for fastest lap after a late pit stop for fresh tyres, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas completing the podium finishers. 

Verstappen led from the off, unchallenged on the first lap to build an immediate lead of around two seconds. The high-speed twisty nature of the Zandvoort circuit then meant that overtaking was at a premium, meaning Mercedes had to operate an alternate strategy to give Hamilton a chance. 

The seven time champion was the first of the leading contenders to pit, stopping on lap 21 but the British driver’s stop was a tad slower than planned, meaning that when Verstappen stopped next time around, he had a healthier advantage to play with. 

Bottas though stayed out longer as the Mercedes team aimed to bring him into play with the lead battle, ideally by holding up Verstappen and allowing Hamilton to close on his rival. 

He did that, but only for a couple of laps, as he made a small mistake on lap 30, allowing Verstappen to get within range of the drag reduction system (DRS) overtaking aid range, and blasted past his rival on lap 31.

The Finnish driver immediately allowed teammate Hamilton through into second, with the top-two separated by around a second and a half after Bottas’ brief delaying tactics. 

The top-two then drove away from the field again, after Bottas pitted, with Verstappen just holding the pace advantage. Knowing their speed wasn’t going to be enough, Mercedes pitted Hamilton again on lap 40 for a set of medium compound tyres, but Red Bull opted to cover the plan by pitting Verstappen a lap later for a set of slower harder tyres. 

Despite the difference in tyre choice, Verstappen still held an advantage and kept hold of his lead, with Hamilton complaining to his team about the strategy choice. 

Bottas was pitted again with a handful of laps remaining after suffering with vibrations. But that choice meant the combination of low fuel and fresh tyres threatened Hamilton’s fastest lap, and the extra point. Bottas claimed the fastest lap, even after pleas from his team to abandon an effort for the pursuit. 

Hamilton therefore was brought into the pits two laps from the end, needing the extra point to minimise the damage to Verstappen. As the home hero crossed the line to win, Hamilton finished over 20 seconds later but crucially beat Bottas’ best lap time by a second to claim the point for fastest lap.

Bottas completed the podium around 25 seconds further back, and the final driver to finish on the same lap as Verstappen and Hamilton. 

Pierre Gasly, the Italian Grand Prix winner last year was fourth, his best result of the season for Alpha Tauri, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fifth. 

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was sixth ahead of Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, while Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was eighth. The Mexican started from the pit lane but steadily climbed the order thanks to some assured overtakes to take eighth, with Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Lando Norris (McLaren) completing the points scorers. 

Following last weekend’s Belgian GP washout and today’s event, Verstappen now holds a three point lead at the top of the championship standings from Hamilton. 

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza completes the triple header of events next weekend. 

“It’s incredible to win here today on another home track and it feels great to take the lead in the Driver’s Championship again,” Verstappen said afterwards. 

“Of course the expectations were very high coming into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that but the whole crowd has been incredible and I am so happy to win here. 

“It was quite a tough race, Lewis was really putting the pressure on and both Mercedes’ had really good pace but we managed to have that three second buffer when we needed it and I think that was very important. 

“We can be really pleased with the whole team's performance; we made the right calls and we managed the race really well. 72 laps around this track is cool, especially in front of all these fans, they were incredible throughout the whole race, I’ve never experienced anything like this before in my life. 

“I will of course celebrate at home this evening, but Monza is just around the corner and the championship fight is tight, so I want to make sure we perform at our best.”

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Written by Richard Randle

Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.