Max Verstappen dominates Dutch GP ahead of second-place Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen won the Dutch Grand Prix with an absolutely commanding drive from pole position in front of his home crowd at Zandvoort. He is the first Dutch driver to win the Dutch GP since its Formula One debut in 1952 and was flawless in delivering a dominant run that left no chance for Lewis Hamilton to challenge, with the world champion finishing in second. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was third, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in fourth and Charle Leclerc in fifth for Ferrari.

Red Bull driver Verstappen has retaken the title lead with his seventh win this year and enjoyed the real kickstart to the second half of the season he wanted in front of a 70,000-strong crowd of enthusiastic orange-clad fans. With F1 back in the Netherlands for the first time since 1985 when Niki Lauda won, this was the result the fans and promoters of the race desperately wanted. More than a million had applied for tickets, hundreds more lined the fences in the dunes outside for a glimpse of the cars in the distance and for those lucky enough to make it they revelled in a haze of orange smoke and noisy celebration.

Verstappen took the win at the last round in Spa, but only after completing three laps behind the safety car in heavy rain. He was awarded half points but there was no satisfaction in the victory.

An emphatic statement was needed after the clash with Hamilton at the British Grand Prix that ended his race and misfortune when he took damage at the Hungarian GP and could finish only in 10th. A war of words had erupted between Red Bull and Mercedes after Silverstone, and Verstappen was clear that he believed Hamilton was responsible for his crash. He wanted to make his point on track and did so with crushing finality at Zandvoort.

It is his first victory here in F1 but in 2014 he won having led every lap of the Formula 3 Masters race when he was just 16. Seven years on he was once more imperious and crucially it has once again edged him ahead in the title fight. He now leads by three points.

Verstappen took off well holding his led through Tarzan, the first corner and immediately opened a gap to Hamilton. The Dutchman was flying out front opening a 1.7sec gap within two laps.

Comfortable in the clean air, he extended his lead to almost three seconds while Hamilton was concerned over how well his tyres would last. As was expected overtaking was very tricky and the leaders, in the same order they had been on the grid, settled into a rhythm with stable gaps between them.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton, as they have been so often this season, were swiftly in a class apart, five seconds clear of Bottas in third and both setting almost identical lap times. The Finn, unable to stay in touch, was rapidly drifting out of a position where he could play a part strategically in the battle for the win.

Mercedes tried to seize the initiative and pulled the trigger on an early stop, pitting Hamilton on lap 21 to take the medium rubber but it was slow – 3.6sec – and Red Bull covered it off with Verstappen coming in a lap later. His stop was good and he emerged once more solidly in front of the world champion.

“You’re doing a good job Lewis, this is all part of the plan,” Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington told him after the stops, indicating they were hoping to pull something off with a two-stop strategy for Hamilton while leaving Bottas, who now led, out for a one-stop.

With Bottas having track position Red Bull were aware they needed Verstappen to pass the Finn, while Hamilton began to close the gap to the Dutchman. Verstappen caught Bottas on lap 28 and was decisive two laps later, pouncing on a minor error, passing him on the straight and holding it through Tarzan. Bottas pitted a lap later and Verstappen now held a 1.5sec lead over Hamilton. With the two leaders on a two-stopper Mercedes hopes lay with pulling off an undercut to take the lead through the final stops.

Hamilton had to stay with Verstappen to make it work however and the leader pushed hard to deny him any chance, opening up almost three seconds when Hamilton dived in for his second stop on lap 39. It was quick but Red Bull covered it and had left no chance of the undercut especially after Hamilton had emerged in traffic. Hamilton had taken another medium set of tyres with Verstappen taking the hard, a potential pace advantage to Hamilton of half a second a lap.

He did close at one point to almost within a second, making the most of his tyres and pressuring Verstappen. Yet the home favourite had it completely under control, once more opening up two seconds with ease. It was enough to see him home with assurance for a convincing win. Mercedes pitted Hamilton late to take for the fastest lap point after Bottas had disobeyed an instruction form the team not to set it himself on his final laps.

Fernando Alonso was sixth for Alpine, while Carlos Sainz was seventh for Ferrari. Sergio Pérez finished in eighth for Red Bull, Esteban Ocon was ninth for Alpine and Lando Norris took 10th for McLaren.

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