Max Verstappen regains title lead after winning Dutch Grand Prix

Red Bull driver delights home fans with victory at Zandvoort, as rival Hamilton comes home distant second

Red Bull driver Max Vertsappen delighted a 70,000-strong partisan home crowd after winning the Dutch Grand Prix to regain his lead in the title race.

Verstappen sealed a comfortable victory in what was a largely incident-free day at the Circuit Vandoort with rival Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton coming home second and the British driver's teammate Valtteri Bottas in third.

It was the Dutchman's seventh win of the season and means he overtakes Hamilton at the top of the Drivers' Championship.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton, who spent the final third of Sunday’s race complaining about his team’s strategy, now trails Verstappen by three points.

The Briton was also forced to chase the fastest lap on the final lap after teammate Bottas defied an order not to beat Hamilton’s previous best time.

Verstappen’s orange army created one of the best Formula One atmospheres of recent times on the sport’s return to the Netherlands after 36 years away. And their star man did not disappoint with a commanding win from pole.

A jubilant Verstappen grabbed a Dutch flag after the race and lifted it high towards his adoring fans.

“As you can hear already, it is incredible because the expectations were high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil that,” Verstappen said after the race.

“But I'm so happy to win here and to take the lead as well in the championship. It's just an amazing day with the whole crowd. Incredible.

“It's definitely a very good day. The start was very important, I think we did that well. Of course, Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us but we countered them all the time really well. We can pleased with the whole team performance today.”

An upbeat Hamilton also paid tribute to the Dutch fans. “What a race, what a crowd. It's been an amazing weekend,” he said.

“Max did an incredible job so a huge congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, I pushed flat out all race but they were just too good.

“I've had an incredible weekend, a big thanks to the fans as they've been amazing.

“The last lap was one of the best parts of the race for me, this track is incredible on a single lap on low fuel — this is now one of my favourite tracks.”

French driver Pierre Gasly was fourth for AlphaTauri with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fifth and Fernando Alonso sixth for Renault-owned Alpine.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was seventh with Red Bull's Mexican Sergio Perez Driver of the Day after racing back to eighth from a pit lane start. Esteban Ocon took two points for Alpine with McLaren's Lando Norris completing the top 10.

Veerstappen made a great start to the race to pull clear on the speedy 4.3km Zandvoort with its high-banking corners and with Red Bull having more pace, Mercedes tried to exert pressure with strategy.

Hamilton changed tires on Lap 21, with Red Bull covering that move by bringing Verstappen in straight away. He came out about two seconds before Hamilton, leaving Bottas in the lead.

“It’s going to be critical to catch and pass [Bottas],” the Red Bull team told Verstappen on the radio. They roared when Verstappen overtook Bottas on Lap 31, with Hamilton passing Bottas to move 1.5 seconds behind Verstappen at the halfway point.

Mercedes brought Hamilton in for a second tyre change on Lap 40 in a bid to undercut Red Bull. It didn’t work, as Red Bull’s slick stop one lap later put Verstappen three seconds ahead.

“Doesn’t seem to be an advantage, [Red Bull] called our bluff,” a frustrated Hamilton said. “They’re just so fast.”

Hamilton disagreed with a team order on Lap 55 to preserve the tires rather than risk damaging them by chasing too hard. “What, and don’t race?” he asked and got the go-ahead to continue.

But he couldn’t get close enough to attack Verstappen, who coasted home to rapturous celebrations from his Orange Army.

Verstappen will look to carry his momentum into the Italian GP at Monza next weekend, where Hamilton again seeks a record-extending 100th win after being thwarted for three races since winning his home race at Silverstone.

Updated: September 5th 2021, 5:16 PM
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