Max Verstappen aims to give army of home fans reason to celebrate at Dutch GP

Double world champion can equal Sebastian Vettel's record of nine consecutive wins with victory at Zandvoort

Max Verstappen on his way to victory at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in 2021. Getty
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Max Verstappen is aiming to give his orange army of fans a reason to celebrate when they pack the stands at his home Dutch Grand Prix this weekend.

Red Bull's double world champion can equal Sebastian Vettel's record of nine consecutive wins with victory at Zandvoort. He is also looking to make it three victories in a row at the coastal circuit after winning from pole in 2021 and 2022.

“This is one of my favourite places,” the Dutchman, looking relaxed and tanned after F1's summer break, said on Thursday.

“I'm not thinking about the record too much. We want to bring the best possible car to the track and of course we want to win.”

Verstappen's massive popularity in the Netherlands is one of the principal reasons why Zandvoort came out of a near four-decade hibernation two years ago to rejoin the F1 calendar.

Described by one former teammate Pierre Gasly on Thursday as “an icon” of the Netherlands, the man himself jokingly brushed aside any pressure he may feel as the home hero on Sunday where the majority of the 300,000 fans expected over the weekend will be rooting for him.

“I wouldn't wish that [pressure] on anyone,” said the runaway championship leader, before breaking into a broad grin.

“It's great to see all the fans. It's an amazing track to drive, all of that makes it a fun weekend.”

He approaches the 13th race of the year in a strong position to join a select club numbering Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as drivers to win three straight world titles.

He leads teammate Sergio Perez by 125 points with his team out to extend their record unbeaten run to 14 races in all.

Hamilton, meanwhile, fears there is a “high chance” that Verstappen will win all 10 remaining races this season – and believes the Dutchman’s crushing dominance could last until 2026.

Such is the dominance of Verstappen’s machine – and the two-time world champion’s supreme form – there is a feeling in the paddock, not only that Red Bull could become the first team to go through a campaign unbeaten, but that Verstappen could be victorious at each of the concluding 10 rounds.

“There is a high chance that he [Verstappen] will win every race,” said Hamilton, 38. “He hasn’t made any mistakes and the team hasn’t made many this year. They might win everything.

“But later on in the year, maybe we will get closer and we are hopeful we can challenge them at some point – whether that is this weekend, or who knows where? If there are any mistakes or mishaps, we will be right there to capitalise.”

Verstappen has dominated since F1’s regulations were overhauled at the start of last season, with his comfortable victory at the concluding round before the break in Belgium his 10th from 12 so far and his 19th from his last 23 outings.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc predicted on Thursday that it would be “very, very difficult” to catch Verstappen and Red Bull before the sport’s next major rule change in 2026.

And Hamilton continued: “The fact is Red Bull are ahead and they have most likely started development on next year’s car a month before anybody else. It is very, very possible that Charles could be right.

“We are working on the steep gradient to develop our car and close the gap. Whether or not we can, next year will be the proof.”

Hamilton’s £40 million-a-year contract expires at the end of the season and the Briton said that there was no update on his next deal, despite team principal Toto Wolff claiming – ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix on June 18 – that his star driver’s future would be resolved in “days rather than weeks”.

Hamilton is fourth in the standings, 41 points adrift of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez who occupies second place, while Mercedes are second in the team standings, an eye-watering 256 points behind Red Bull, but 51 points clear of Ferrari.

“It is a huge achievement to be second in the championship and it is something I feel has been overlooked,” said Hamilton. “We want to win but I am really proud of the team and the steps we have taken.”

Updated: August 24, 2023, 4:21 PM