Max Verstappen took a thrilling victory in front of a fervent home crowd at the Dutch Grand Prix as the Red Bull driver held off Lewis Hamilton to win at Zandvoort.
The 23-year-old now leads the drivers’ championship by four points after winning his seventh race of the season, despite having to face off against both Mercedes cars on his own out front.
This was F1’s first race weekend in the Netherlands since 1985 and it was not just at the top of the standings that fascinating storylines unfolded further.
Verstappen doesn’t need any help to beat Mercedes
Sergio Perez rallied to a decent eight-place finish for Red Bull after starting from the pitlane and needing an early stop to replace flat-spotted hard tyres, but the Mexican’s struggles meant that Verstappen had to fence with both Mercedes all alone out front throughout the afternoon.
But the Dutchman had the pace in the right moments to ensure that nothing Hamilton and Bottas threw at him strategy-wise was enough. The strategic advantage the Mercs had simply wasn’t enough to counter-act the home favourite’s skills and composure.
Team boss Christian Horner will be desperate for the Dutchman to have more support from Perez at Monza next weekend, but on this evidence, he simply doesn’t need it.
Pierre Gasly is the real deal
Frenchman Pierre Gasly enjoyed another superbly under-stated weekend in an Alpha Tauri car which is probably fifth fastest in the field, but which is positioned beyond its limits b y a driver at the peak of his powers.
Gasly qualified and finished fourth on an incredibly difficult track, never coming under any significant pressure from the Ferraris behind and making a smart overtake on Fernando Alonso in turn one after a pit stop.
The former Red Bull driver is no longer just in a purple patch of form. He is, on merit, one of the quickest drivers on the grid right now and looks capable of challenging for regular race victories if he can find the right machinery in at some point in his career.
Fernando Alonso is still the combat master
One of the highlights of this Formula 1 season so far was Fernando Alonso’s determined defence against Hamilton in Hungary which helped team-mate Esteban Ocon secure the first victory of his fledgling career, and at Zandvoort once again the Spaniard proved he is the master of wheel-to-wheel combat with a superb start.
Alonso jinked past Ocon in the tight turn two before using the highest point of the banking at turn three to rotate the car around the outside of Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo and take the position.
A gorgeous piece of driving from one of the best the sport has ever seen.
Sebastian Vettel’s errors aren’t going away
Sebastian Vettel was ultimately dropped by Ferrari not just because of his pace deficit to Charles Leclerc, but because of an array of individual errors which had infected his previously composed driving style.
His move to Aston Martin was supposed to give him a calmer atmosphere in which to operate but after a strategic error left him languishing down the grid at Zandvoort, he launched into an erratic, unforced spin into turn three while trying to overtake Alfa Romero stand-in Robert Kubica.
Strong performances in Baku and Budapest are the highlights of the German’s debut season with his new squad so far but the regular errors are now so common that they must be now considered a permanent part of his output from here on in.
More F1 Grand Prix should be turned into beach festival parties
Though the racing was not the most exhilarating of the season so far, and the track is perhaps more suited to qualifying than close wheel-to-wheel racing, the Dutch Grand Prix was one of the most spectacular in living memory.
Verstappen has been received like a deity in his homeland this weekend and the spectators at the circuit have delivered the kind of infectious energy that can prove to be so many F1-sceptics
The colour, noise, and pure joy exuding from the thousands upon thousands of fans in the crowd next to the seaside served as an excellent reminder not just of what we have all missed out on so often over the past 18 months, but of the power of sport to give people the kind of collective human experience that truly makes you feel alive.
Get Tiësto at every race from now on, please.
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