Apart from the iconic banking turns and the emphatic Orange Army, close racing and multiple restarts ensured top class drama at the Zandvoort circuit. Mercedes almost had this one in the bag, but took a risk of staying out under the safety car which did not pay off, as Verstappen easily took and held first place. Ferrari seemed to just lack the pace on the hard tires to claim the top spot in the race.
Race Start and Initial laps
Verstappen immediately got ahead with a pretty decent start from pole position. In the first corner, Sainz and Hamilton had a slight contact as Sainz got ahead of the Briton. Russell did not have a good start, and fell behind Norris and Perez along with the rest of the pack. However, he made up those places back with ease with the help of DRS a few laps later.
On Lap 2, Magnussen oversteered into Turn 3, just brushing past the barriers. Though he did not sustain any damage, he fell back to the last place and played a game of catch-up for the rest of the race.
On Lap 15, drivers began pitting for fresh tires, and so did Carlos Sainz. But it seemed that his pit crew were not aware of his pitstop timing as they did not have his tires ready. This delayed his pitstop to over 12 seconds! In the meantime, to undercut Sainz, Perez also pit behind him, and came out before him! But owing to the short pitlane and garage size, the Mexican went over the Ferrari crew’s wheel guns, breaking it in the process.
For the rest of the race, as Verstappen cruised along in P1, followed by Leclerc, we saw some nail-biting battles between Schumacher and Vettel and Perez and Hamilton. On Lap 36, Perez and Hamilton almost made contact on the main straight, but the Mexican Minister of Defence had his elbows out wide and did not give up his place. Eventually, in the following lap, he had to concede his place because of Hamilton’s superior pace.
Car troubles for Tsunoda but opportunity for the rest of the field
On Lap 44, Tsunoda faced mechanical issues for which the Virtual Safety Car was deployed. With just about 30 laps to go, drivers got the opportunity to save some time on a pitstop. With the Mercedes and RedBull cars comfortable on Medium tires, they went for a fresh set of the same, but Ferrari seemed to find their pace on the Hards. This strategy also suited the likes of Alpine and the Williams.
Bottas brings out the Safety Car
On Lap 55, Valtteri Bottas had yet another mechanical failure and had to stop on the side of the main straight. This counts as the 3rd consecutive DNF for the Finn, which makes us question the integrity of the Alfa Romeo car. Although, last week was not a fault on his part.
Around this time, Sainz was attempting a move on Ocon, and just about stuck it before the yellow flags. The Safety Car was deployed and the drivers got yet another opportunity to change tires with lesser loss in time. With the Safety Car out for 3 laps, almost all drivers pit for new or scrubbed soft tires. Why almost you ask? That’s because Hamilton’s engineers took a risk to keep him out to maintain the lead of the race. This incident was somewhat similar to that of the final championship deciding race at Abu Dhabi last year. His teammate however, took the matter into his own hands and demanded for the soft tires.
More troubles for Sainz
Sainz had a slow pitstop again, but this time, was released unsafely onto incoming traffic on the pitlane. Alonso was able to brake in time, just kissing the rear left of the Ferrari. After investigation, Sainz was handed a 5-second time penalty, which cost him 3 places in the final standings.
An Unhappy Hamilton drops several places
At the race start, Hamilton was followed by Verstappen and Russell, who hungrily stayed close to start racing at the first opportunity. As you can expect, Verstappen caught a very decent slipstream and immediately overtook Hamilton, even before the first corner. Lack of pace due to older tires saw the 7-time world champion further fall behind his teammate Russell and subsequently Leclerc. What looked like a 1-2 finish for Mercedes now ended up with no podium for Hamilton. He was extremely upset with his team’s decision and threw about quite a few expletives to make his feelings known.
The rest of the laps remained undisturbed as Verstappen went on to win his Home GP for a consecutive time and put forward 4 race wins in a row. He shared the podium with Russell and Leclerc. The complete driver standings form the session are given below:
|1||1||RED BULL RACING RBPT||72||1:36:42.773||26|
|5||11||RED BULL RACING RBPT||72||+18.168s||10|
|10||18||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||72||+22.459s||1|
|14||5||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||72||+36.007s||0|
|16||24||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||72||+37.320s||0|
|18||6||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||71||+1 lap||0|
|NC||77||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||53||DNF||0|