Just three days after receiving an Officer’s title in the Order of Orange-Nassau, a royal decoration in the Netherlands, Max Verstappen won his home Grand Prix from pole for the second year in a row, much to the delight of the over 1 lakh local fans in attendance. George Russell capped off another positive race for Mercedes by coming home in P2 while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took P3 for what was only his second podium finish in the last 10 races. After briefly leading the race, Lewis Hamilton’s progress was undone by the late safety car, ultimately dropping back to P4.
Here are some key takeaways from the race.
Verstappen Inches Closer To Championship Trophy
Another race, another dominant victory for the flying Dutchman and reigning World Champion. Amid the sea of orange in and around the track, the local hero put in another perfect performance to claim his second Dutch Grand Prix trophy. In a close qualifying session, Verstappen was again the difference-maker as he snatched pole from Leclerc by two-hundredths of a second. After leading much of the race, a hurdle in the form of Lewis Hamilton, on a slightly more favourable strategy, presented itself in front of Verstappen. Undeterred, he made most of the good fortune that fell his way when Yuki Tsunoda stopped on track late in the race. Pitting for fresh softs under the safety car that ensued, the Dutchman duly dispatched the Mercedes of Hamilton before taking the chequered flag.
After last year’s gruelling championship victory, the world been treated to a completely different Max Verstappen this year — with a title already under his belt and driving like he has got nothing to prove to anyone. While he has matured significantly both on and off-track, he has also eliminated the odd-error in his drive to become a killer behind the wheel. Such has been his dominance this year that he finds himself a mammoth 109-point clear of Leclerc in the championship, while he only needs just four more race wins to break the record of most wins in a season. Driving at such a high level, it doesn’t seem anything or anyone is going to faze him in his quest for a record-breaking second championship title.
Ferrari in a Spot of Bother After Another Toothless Showing
Ferrari’s pit stop and race strategy woes continued on Sunday, as Carlos Sainz’s slow pit stop in the early stages of the race all but ended his chances of fighting for a podium. A late pit stop call meant that the crew simply wasn’t ready for him and resulted in a painfully slow 12-second pit stop while a 5-second time penalty for an unsafe pit release relegated him down to P8, behind the likes of Alonso and Norris.
However, the fact that their race pace was way off the mark for the second week in a row will bother Ferrari the most. Contrary to Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort is predominantly a high downforce track and was expected to suit the nature of Ferrari’s cars. After strong showings on Friday and Saturday, the two scarlet cars were no match to Red Bull’s race pace whatsoever and were the third-best car on track for the better part of the afternoon. I’ve previously talked about how important in-season developments are gonna be and Red Bull and Mercedes have both made tremendous progress to heavily improve their package. With seemingly little going their way lately, Ferrari need to find solutions fast in order to cover off the threat from Mercedes and salvage their season.
Oscar Piastri Contract Saga Finally Comes to a Close
The rather unpleasant and dramatic Alpine-Piastri-McLaren contract tussle finally came to an end this race weekend as the Contact Recognition Board (CRB) ruled in McLaren’s favour. After listening to all arguments, the CRB declared that Piastri’s contract with McLaren was legally binding and he is free to race for the British team next season.
However, the whole episode did bring some ugly instances into public light. Piastri seemingly signed his contract with McLaren in the week after the British Grand Prix, a day after Daniel Ricciardo publicly reaffirmed his commitment to continue with McLaren for the next year. On the other hand, Alpine have launched a scathing attack on Piastri, questioning his integrity after failing to stick with the team which has supported him on his path to F1 and provided extensive testing opportunities. It will be interesting to see how the two parties continue for the rest of this year with Piastri currently fulfilling the role of Alpine’s reserve driver.
Next up on the F1 calendar is the “Temple of Speed” at Monza in Italy, for Ferrari’s home race. With the power-sensitive nature of the track expected to suit cars like Red Bull, it remains to be seen what Ferrari can conjure up in front of their home fans.
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