A Sweet Home Dutch Win For Max

Verstappen arrived in Zandvoort off the back of three straight wins in France, Hungary and Belgium, but with history against him. He’d won three in a row twice before (France, Styria, Austria in 2021 and Emilia Romagna, Miami and Spain this year), but a fourth triumph on the trot had previously proved elusive.

Last year’s win was a stroll in the sand dunes next to the North Sea for Verstappen, but Sunday’s victory – although from pole position – was altogether more complicated after a virtual safety car just after half-distance shuffled the pack and a full safety car on Lap 55 of 72 turned the race into an 11-lap sprint once it resumed.

Verstappen cleared leader Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the restart and cantered to a four-second victory, and his 10th win in 15 races this season saw his series lead balloon to 109 points with seven races remaining.

British driver George Russell equalled his career-best result set in Belgium last year with second place for Mercedes. At the same time, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took third and reclaimed second in the drivers’ championship behind Verstappen’s sixth podium of 2022.

Here’s how Verstappen’s 30th F1 victory came about on a Sunday afternoon that will live long in the memory of an adoring home crowd in Holland.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 battle for position. 04.09.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort, Netherlands, Race Day. – www.xpbimages.com

Mercedes duo Hamilton and Russell brought themselves into play by running a longer first stint of the race and gaining track position when Verstappen pitted. A virtual safety car caused by Yuki Tsunoda’s ailing Scuderia AlphaTauri coming to rest beside the track on Lap 44 tilted the balance of power back in Verstappen’s favour after he pitted for hard tyres with the field neutralised.

Just when the race looked to have settled, Valtteri Bottas pulled over on the start-finish straight after his Alfa Romeo suffered a power failure on Lap 55, Verstappen and Russell pitting for soft tyres, but – crucially – Hamilton staying out on mediums.

The race resumed on Lap 61 with a Hamilton vs Verstappen battle for the lead, evoking memories of the 2021 season, but it was short-lived as the Red Bull slipstreamed past the Mercedes down the main straight and simply disappeared.

Ten laps later, Verstappen was back on the podium to receive the crowd’s plaudits and reflect on the race that had just unfolded.

“With the safety car, virtual safety car, making the right calls is always a bit of a question mark, but it worked out really well. Once we got back to the soft tyres, we had great pace again.

“We timed it really well off the last corner with the banking [on the Lap 61 restart], you could see the draft was quite strong, and we got ahead.

“It’s always special to win your home Grand Prix – it was already last year. I have to say this year, and I had to work for it even more, so an incredible weekend. Unbelievable support … I’m proud to be Dutch.”

The victory was Oracle Red Bull Racing’s 11th of the season; with races in Italy, Singapore, Japan, the USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi to come, the team’s record of 13 wins in one season (2013) is very much within touching distance.

Ferrari driver Sainz had a rollercoaster ride at Zandvoort, starting third on the grid and spending most of the race lurching from one dramatic incident to the next.

The Spaniard had contact with Hamilton as the field threaded its way through the first corner on Lap 1, while a calamitous pit stop on Lap 14 – Ferrari’s mechanics had neglected to bring his left-rear tyre into the pit lane – saw him fall away from the podium places.

Sainz was able to get back on terms with race-long rival Pérez through the chaotic virtual safety car and safety car periods but dropped from fifth on the road to eighth in the classification after he was assessed a five-second post-race penalty for being released into the path of Alonso’s Alpine in his final pit stop.