Verstappen retakes championship lead after historic home victory at Zandvoort

Max Verstappen retook the lead of the Formula One world championship after beating arch-rival Lewis Hamilton to the chequered flag and win his home Dutch Grand Prix.

The famous Zandvoort circuit had not hosted an F1 race since Niki Lauda completed his final grand prix victory back in 1985. And it was a fairy-tale return for the swathes of home fans filling the grandstands and bedecked in orange attire as their man won a tactical, if processional race to head home the two Mercedes drivers.

Pierre Gasly was an excellent fourth for Alpha Tauri ahead of Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz. Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris rounded out the top ten finishers.

“As you can hear already it’s just incredible,” commented Verstappen, almost being drowned out by the cheering home support. “Of course the expectations were already very high going into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that but of course so happy to win here, to take the lead as well in the championship is just an amazing day.

“It’s definitely a very good day. The start was very important, I think we did that well. Then of course Mercedes tried to make it very difficult for us, but we countered them all the time really well and we can be really pleased with winning for the fans here today.”

The updated Zandvoort circuit is a veritable rollercoaster of a circuit with big elevations, dips and inclines. Yet as proved with the weekend’s F3 and W Series races, overtaking opportunities are at a premium, meaning the start was vital and Verstappen’s pole all the more valuable.

With Verstappen disappearing into the distance, Mercedes rolled the dice by putting their man onto a two-stop strategy, Hamilton diving in for a fresh set of medium compound tyres on lap 21 but with a sticky right front slowing his departure.

It led to an immediate response from Red Bull, a much slicker stop maintaining the home hero’s advantage and cover off the undercut. With Hamilton on fresher rubber, the gap did narrow and with the added advantage of having Bottas in front of Verstappen and on a one stopper.

With Verstappen closing up on the gearbox of Bottas, he took his opportunity to pass with the benefit of DRS on the home straight on lap 31. The upshot being that Hamilton closed to within a second.

The mobile Bottas chicane negotiated for the race leader, the Finn pitted again on lap 32 for a set of hards to take him to the end. Hamilton was next for a second set of mediums with Verstappen following for the hard compound.

It was now ‘Hammer Time’ and with less than 20 laps remaining, the gap was again down to under two seconds despite the Brit complaining of tyre wear. With no more stops forthcoming, it now became a straight fight to the flag.

And with Hamilton’s tyres fading and Verstappen’s harder compound coming to him, it was the Dutchman who cruised home for a memorable victory as Hamilton pitted once more to net the fastest lap for an extra point.

“What a race, what a crowd,” said a magnanimous Hamilton afterward. “Honestly it’s been an amazing weekend. Max did a great job, congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today. Flat out, I pushed as hard as I could but they were just too quick for us, so I’ve had an amazing time here in Holland thanks to the crowd, so thank you so much for having us.

“I will call him (Max) Noah every time from now on. Every time he got traffic they just moved out of the way and it was very hard to navigate through all the traffic. They just had that upper edge and it’s very hard to follow here.”

The upshot of another intriguing day of Formula One battle means that it’s now Verstappen who regains the lead of the championship, holding a three point advantage going into the next race at Monza from September 10-12.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.