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Dutch Delight for Verstappen at Circuit Zandvoort

Dutch Grand Prix Race Report 05-09-2021

The orange army was out in serious numbers to cheer on their home hero, Verstappen, and they were not disappointed. After showing decent pace throughout practice sessions, Verstappen took pole with ease and managed to convert that into a convincing victory this afternoon. A delighted crowd swamped the circuit in orange fog and deafening cheers.

Off the line, Verstappen took the lead followed by Hamilton and Bottas. Further back, there was serious close running and near misses as drivers fought for position at a track that is very difficult to overtake on. Alonso was the biggest winner, with a stunning move around the outside of turn three, making up two places. After a stand out qualifying performance, Giovinnazzi lost out on the opening lap after being squeezed out and dropped down a few positions.

It soon became clear the top three were in a league of their own and soon dropped the other cars. However, Bottas could not really keep up the pace with Verstappen and Hamilton, and it was quickly apparent that it was between the two championship rivals for the win.

Tyre wear was always going to be important here and Mercedes soon switched Hamilton onto a two-stop strategy. Red Bull reacted to these stops—immediately pitting Verstappen—to counter any possible advantage Hamilton may get from undercutting the Red Bull. After the first stop, Mercedes leave Bottas out to try to hold Verstappen up, but he is soon dispatched by the faster Red Bull. Mercedes pit Hamilton early for his second stop—again, Red Bull counter by pitting Verstappen immediately. During this phase, Hamilton is faster—with a medium set of tyres compared to Verstappen’s hard compound. The Brit chases Verstappen down and it’s within 1.5 seconds at one point, but ultimately he can not take advantage of this. The window of superior tyre performance closes and with it so does Hamiltons pace advantage over Verstappen. Ultimately, Red Bull had the faster car today and whatever fancy strategies Mercedes could have tried, Red Bull would have been able to counter it with their outright pace.

Behind the lead pack, Gasly had another strong showing—with an early one-stop strategy he kept the arguably faster Leclerc behind. Alonso managed his race very well; initial tyre management paid off as he retained late pace and was able to overtake Sainz on the last lap for sixth position.

Throughout the pack, there was some close running and most positions were gained and lost through tyre strategy. On a track very difficult to overtake on, drivers needed a good tyre strategy to allow them a bigger speed advantage to pass rivals. Drivers like Alonso—who managed tyres well—were rewarded.

Perez provided most of the on-track entertainment, carving his way through the pack as he does so well. After a bad qualifying session, Red Bull opted to start Perez from the pit lane, enabling them to replace his engine without a five-place grid penalty. Despite having to move onto a medium set of tyres after flat-spotting his hards, the Red Bull man still managed to move up to eighth place.

The Teams

Mercedes: Seemed a little clunky today, communication and strategy-wise. Changing to a two-stop seemed like the right call, but the second pit stop saw Hamilton come out into traffic—therefore being unable to get in a fast lap and make a possible undercut work. With only a few laps to go, the team pitted Bottas, who then set the fastest lap. They then had to pit Hamilton for new tyres to allow him to retake the fastest lap—in a championship as tight as this, every additional point counts. Perhaps this was all planned, maybe it was all completely under control; but from the outside, it seemed clunky, stressful and a bit chaotic. Ultimately, Red Bull did have the faster car this weekend, so second and third place were pretty much the best they could have achieved.

Red Bull: Pretty faultless really; good strategy and pace allowed Perez to carve through the pack, and Verstappen to cruise to victory. Mercedes did not expect Red Bull to counter their second pitstop by pitting Verstappen immediately, but they did and it worked perfectly. Ultimately they had the fastest car here; updates brought last weekend—which we didn’t really get to see in the race—seem to have put Red Bull on the front foot at this point in the season. A win and an eighth-place for Verstappen and Perez today.

Ferrari: Not a bad weekend for the Italian team. Solid performance with good tyre management saw Leclerc finish fifth. The Monegasque was convinced he had better pace than Gasly ahead but was unable to get close enough for a pass. Sainz struggled with low grip and high tyre wear today and finished seventh. Sainz seemed disappointed with this result, but a fifth and seventh were good points for the team—especially on a weekend where main rivals Mclaren struggled. Speaking of which…

Mclaren: Didn’t quite manage to get it together this weekend. A red flag-affected qualifying session saw Norris unable to get a decent lap and lined up thirteenth for the race. The Brit ran a long first stint one-stop strategy, where he was stuck for a large portion behind slower cars. Once these had pitted, he could begin to make some headway and managed to use the strategy to finish with a single point in tenth. Ricciardo qualified better in tenth but didn’t really make any inroads in the race and finished eleventh. Not the best race for Mclaren, perhaps it’s just not a great track for their particular car.

Alpine: Another solid race for Alpine. After keeping his teammate at bay, Alonso continued to manage his tyres and strategy perfectly to retain pace throughout the race and passed Sainz on the last lap to secure sixth position. Ocon did have some pace, but didn’t manage his tyres as well as Alonso and came in ninth. Good points scored again for Alpine in what is turning out to be a good season.

Alpha Tauri: Yet another stunning weekend for Gasly—a great qualifying, race and result saw him finish fourth. In a race where the top two teams had such an advantage, the next spot behind them was the best he could hope for, and that’s what he got. Tsunoda, on the other hand, never really got into the race and retired with mechanical issues.

Aston Martin: A frustrating weekend for the team. Stroll qualified twelfth and spent the whole of the race stuck behind Russell. A miscommunication saw him pit at the same time as the car ahead—therefore not being able to utilise a different strategy to try to jump the Williams. Vettel was denied a fast lap in qualifying after being held up by the Haas’, meaning he started way down the order. The team tried an odd strategy with him, but—like his teammate—he was unable to make much progress. Aston Martin came in 12th and 13th today.

Williams: Russell ran consistently in eleventh for pretty much the whole race, with Stroll on his gearbox. The Brit retired with only a few laps to go with gearbox issues—though he was classified as finishing 17th. Latifi didn’t make much progress in the race and finished 16th.

Alfa Romeo: After the stand out performance in qualifying, Giovinnazzi was edged out on the opening lap and lost a few places. He later suffered a puncture and finished 14th. With Raikkonen testing positive for Covid, reserve driver Robert Kubica had a very late call to fill in on one of the most demanding tracks of the year. With minimal preparation, Kubica was very up to speed quickly, putting in an impressive performance with such short notice. Kubica finished in 15th position and seemed to have great fun as well.

Lovely to see Kubica back in an F1 car, but also hoping for a quick recovery for Kimi.

Haas: After a falling out in qualifying, the two drivers had another spat on track today. Mazepin—defending from Schumacher—moved across in front of his teammate who clipped the back of his car and needed to pit with wing damage. Schumacher finished 18th. Mazepin himself later retired with mechanical issues.

Final Thoughts

A great track to watch the cars—beautiful sweeping corners and banking with a backdrop of cheering orange fans. Perhaps not the most exciting race but an interesting one strategy-wise. With a packed Zandvoort—it was a bit like watching a game of high-speed chess in the middle of a jubilant music festival! And ultimately, the crowd were treated to a convincing display by their hero Verstappen. Even when Hamilton was chasing him down, the victory never really seemed in doubt, and the pace of the Red Bull was thoroughly impressive throughout the weekend.

Driver of the day: Alonso.
Honourable mentions: Verstappen, Gasly, Perez, Kubica.

Dutch Grand Prix Race Results

  1. Verstappen
  2. Hamilton (Fastest Lap)
  3. Bottas
  4. Gasly
  5. Leclerc
  6. Alonso
  7. Sainz
  8. Perez
  9. Ocon
  10. Norris

Highlights

Next Time

Historic, legendary and SUPER fast! We’re off to Monza!

The second trial of the sprint race format will see a qualifying session Friday evening, a sprint race Saturday afternoon and the main event on Sunday—can’t wait!

Where to Watch

USA: Sunday 12th September Live on ESPN race start at 9:00 am EST
UK: Sunday 12th September Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 2:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Channel Four, Sunday 12th September 6:30 pm GMT

Written by Jenny Alderton

Jenny is a freelance writer based in Wales with keen interest in Motorsports. An avid follower of Formula one for over twenty years she has recently branched out into watching other vehicles driving around in wiggly circles. Namely, Motogp, World Superbike championship, and British Superbike championship.

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