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Verstappen’s home delight at Dutch Grand Prix

Verstappen’s home delight at Dutch Grand Prix

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen sent his home crowd into raptures with a thrilling late victory over arch rival Lewis Hamilton at the Dutch Grand Prix yesterday (Sept 4).

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 5 September 2022, 09:48AM

Max Verstappen celebrates a home win as his second title looms into view. Photo: AFP

Max Verstappen celebrates a home win as his second title looms into view. Photo: AFP

Pole-getter Verstappen had the odds of victory stacked against him early in the race despite holding first place off the line, with Mercedes determined to make the most of an unusually competitive weekend by running an aggressive strategy.

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, starting fourth and sixth respectively, planned on a one-stop strategy to Verstappen’s two, both of them applying pressure to the Dutchman to do his passing on the track rather than via strategy in the pit lane.

As the race clock ticked over to lap 48, the Mercedes gamble appeared set to pay off, with the Dutchman needing to make his final pit stop, which would have ejected him from pit lane behind both German cars and forced him into a battle for victory reminiscent of his duels with the Silver Arrows last season.

But a little intervention from the racing gods were coming the Dutchman’s way courtesy of the stopped AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.

The Japanese driver had just made his second pit stop when he pulled to the side of the road with what he thought was a loose wheel, only to be told by his team to continue back to pit lane for checks.

No problem was found, and the Japanese driver was sent back to the track, only to report the problem had become worse again, forcing him to park a second time, this time for good.

A virtual safety car was called to facilitate his recovery, allowing Verstappen to make his second stop while the field circulated at reduced pace and without losing the lead.

The race had one more curveball to throw, this time via Valtteri Bottas, whose Alfa Romeo car suffered an engine problem on the pit straight, where the Finn ground to a halt. This time the full safety car was called, forcing the leaders into some quick decision-making.

Verstappen gambled away his lead on a new set of soft tyres, ditching his used hards for fear they wouldn’t warm up quickly enough for him to manage the restart.

Hamilton stayed out on his worn mediums, while Russell hedged his bets by following Verstappen in for softs.

In eerily reminiscent scenes of last year’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton now led the field behind the safety car with a much faster Verstappen behind him, and much like last year, the Briton was easy pickings for the Dutchman on grippier tyres.

Verstappen cruised past Hamilton down the front straight at the restart to make an easy move into the first corner and checked out with the lead, much to the delight of his raucous home support.

“It was not a straightforward race,” Verstappen said. “We had to push the whole race.

“It’s always special to win you home grand prix.

“This year I have to say I had to work for it even more. An incredible weekend, and I’m really happy we got the Dutch Grand Prix.”

Russell’s new tyres similarly easily outgunned Hamilton’s older mediums, and the younger Briton came home a comfortable second, albeit without the pace to challenge Verstappen.

“As a team today we showed incredible pace,” he said. “As a team it wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for, but it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.

“We as Mercedes are slowly getting closer to that top step, so let’s keep on pushing.”

Hamilton couldn’t even hold third, with Charles Leclerc, also on newer tyres, relieving him of the final podium place with just six laps to run, saving some face after another difficult day for Ferrari.

“To be honest, much better was difficult to do,” he said. “Max was too quick today.”

Third dropped Leclerc to 109 points adrift of Verstappen and tied him on points with Sergio Perez.

Hamilton sunk to fourth, which he managed to hold onto ahead of Carlos Sainz, though the Spaniard was demoted to eighth with a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in pit late.

Sergio Perez instead was classified fifth ahead of Fernando Alonso for Alpine.

Lando Norris followed for McLaren ahead of the penalise Sainz.

Esteban Ocon completed a double-points finish for Alpine in ninth, extending the team’s advantage over McLaren to 22 points in the constructors title battle for fourth.

Lance Stroll completed the top 10, scoring the final point of the race for Aston Martin.

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