Verstappen dominant in front of the Orange Army

Max Verstappen took victory at his home Dutch Grand Prix with a dominant display at Zandvoort.

36 years since the last race at Zandvoort and anticipation was high. The Orange Army were in full force all weekend as Super Max blared through the speakers at the track. Having qualified on pole, it was all set for Verstappen to win with overtaking being notoriously difficult here.

Having gone out in Q1, Sergio Perez was already on the back foot but a change in engine for both him and Latifi meant they started from the pitlane. This meant that Verstappen would have to fight off both Mercedes to take the victory.

Sergio Perez’s Q1 exit on Saturday was exacerbated by a pit lane start – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and both front runners got a good start with Verstappen closing the door on Hamilton before turn 1. All cars managed to get through lap 1 cleanly, the Alpines touched but Alonso got around the outside of his teammate in turn 3. There was some concern for Daniel Ricciardo whose engine appeared to be blowing smoke and dropping oil. However, the team were happy with the car and asked him to carry on. Verstappen had pulled out a 2 second gap at the end of lap 2 and the cars began to separate, making this a race of strategy.

After a huge flat spot on the hard tyres trying to overtake the Haas, Perez came in early on lap 10 to get rid of those vibrations. There was also a switch up of strategy from Aston Martin, who pit Vettel for a new set of soft tyres around lap 13. An unexpected move from them as most pitstops were predicted at lap 25, but this was to try an affect his race.

Overtaking is difficult here but not impossible as Perez makes a great move on Mazepin through the chicane stadium section. Proving the Red bull is a very fast car, he quickly made his way past Latifi, Kubica and Tsunoda in the next couple of laps.

Hamilton came in on lap 21, with a slow stop on the front right. Verstappen then reacted the next lap with a good stop from them and expectedly came out in front of Hamilton. Importantly, Mercedes left Bottas out longer than Hamilton, so he was leading the race after the pit stops. This looked to be a strategy to hold up Verstappen and potentially back him into Hamilton.

It was now time to see if leaving Bottas out was a good decision, Verstappen had caught up around lap 30. The narrow track made it hard for Verstappen to pass Bottas, he was only help up for 1 lap, but it was enough to bring Hamilton into the DRS zone. Although once in clean air, the gap was back to 1.5 seconds between the top 2.

Hamilton and Bottas attempted to pincer Max Verstappen after the first stop – to little avail – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Just as George Russell makes a great move around turn 1 on his former teammate Kubica, he received a 5 second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Lando Norris was P8 at the halfway point and still putting in impressive lap times on his 35 lap old medium tyres. He was managing his tyres back into the points after starting 14th on the grid.

Vettel went for a spin around turn 3, briefly bringing out the yellow flag and impeding Bottas who had to take avoiding action to miss Vettel’s car in the middle of the corner. This meant that when the 2 leaders pitted, he was no longer able to help Mercedes.

Hamilton pitted again on lap 40 and use the extra set of new medium tyres Mercedes have over Red Bull. A response from Red Bull the following lap with Verstappen, who ended up on new hard tyres, importantly the slower of the 2 sets. The chase was then on for Hamilton, only just edging Verstappen for fastest lap each lap.

By lap 55 Hamilton started to catch Verstappen with a gap now back down to 1.5 seconds. Having been told by his team to focus on P2, he could see Verstappen in front of him so decided to ignore his engineer and close the gap. However, the medium tyres couldn’t cope with the speed and, with 10 laps to go, Hamilton had to back off and the gap opened up again.

A battle between Perez and Norris was rising in tension for P9. Both drivers put in solid performances all race with each putting in some decent moves. Perez managed to make the move on Norris at lap 67 around turn 3 after carrying the speed on the outside of turn 1, touching wheels on the way. Alonso was also showing his experience, looking for a move on Sainz who had a very different race to his teammate, being off Leclerc’s pace by at least half a second.

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz brought the cars home in fifth and seventh respectively – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Mercedes pitted Bottas as a precautionary measure in case they needed to pit Hamilton for fastest lap point. Bottas was told not to do the fastest lap attempt, and after going purple in sectors 1 and 2 it was the infamous message “Valtteri, it’s James” and was told to abort the lap. Bottas did slow down but it was not enough, and he achieved fastest lap. Hamilton was then forced to pit with 1 lap left.

Verstappen won with a very dominant performance around a Zandvoort lined with Orange. Hamilton crucially got the fastest lap on the line but conceded defeat from an outright faster Verstappen and Red Bull. Bottas rounded off the podium with a P3 finish. Verstappen led from start to finish, achieving over 1000 race laps lead. He was in control for the whole race meaning Mercedes had no answer for him.

Gasly managed to convert his great P4 qualifying into a P4 finish, an excellent result for him and Alpha Tauri after Tsunoda had to retire early having had power issues on track. Perez got a deserved driver of the day and finished P8 from starting in the pitlane.

This means that Verstappen goes into Monza next week with a 3 point lead in the championship. Having broken his Italy curse earlier on in the year he will want to replicate today’s performance.

W Series Qualifying: Kimiläinen beats championship rivals to pole

Qualifying at Zandvoort was an important session for the drivers as overtaking here could be hard. The crowd was already electric on a Friday, with Beitske Visser was looking to impress after a P5 in practice.

After a short 5 minute delay due to red flags earlier on in the day, the session got underway, and it was noticeable that with different power and tyre compounds, the majority of the drivers took wider lines through the banked in comparison to Formula 3 and Formula 1 in order to hold onto the speed through the corners.

Fabienne Wohlwend crashed out of qualifying early in the session at the exit of turn 3 after going wide from the banked corner. She got out of the car and was OK but will be starting from the back of the grid tomorrow.

Back on track when the red flag was lifted and there was a switch up in run plans with nearly 24 minutes left on the clock. Visser and Sarah Moore came out on fresh tyres, while others stuck to their used tyres which did not need as long to warm up.

Jamie Chadwick had provisional pole for the first 10 minutes and was improving all the time. Jess Hawkins and Alice Powell were improving behind her though. Hawkins couldn’t quite match Chadwick in the end, but Powell went faster and took provisional pole.

Irina Sidorkova went off at turn 9 but was able to make it back onto the track. However, she joined by going straight across the racing line and is under investigation. The off hurt her run plan and she qualified P15, looking to move up the order during the race tomorrow.

Emma Kimiläinen had to sit out most of practice so was looking to improve massively and put in some fantastic laps to be provisional P2 at the halfway mark. Chadwick then improved and went fastest with home favourite Visser managing a P3. At the halfway point every driver was still improving lap times and so much movement happening meant the timing graphics couldn’t keep up.

In the last 9 minutes it was set to be all change in the order as the lap times kept tumbling down. Powell put in a stunning lap to get provisional pole which couldn’t be matched by Chadwick who lost out in the final sector to go P2. Kimiläinen was in P3 and Nerea Marti put in her personal best lap to be in P4. With 5 minutes 45 seconds to go the red flag came out again as Sabré Cook spun and beached the car at the chicane. She was then out of qualifying, finishing P17 in a day to forget for the Bunker team.

Once the track was cleared the session was back underway with a shootout for pole position. Chadwick went fastest in the first two sectors but again lost the speed in the last sector and couldn’t improve on her time. Kimiläinen was the only driver improving in the first laps out, but all drivers were improving again on the second laps. Issues with the timings meant there was confusion at the end of the session as to who had actually taken pole.

Once the timings had updated, impressive speed in sectors 1 and 2 meant that Kimiläinen took a great pole to continue her momentum from her victory last time out in Spa. Powell narrowly beat Chadwick to P2 because Chadwick was struggling to gain time in that final sector. This is the first time this season that someone other than Chadwick or Powell have qualified on pole.

There are six Brits in the top eight with great results for Abbi Pulling in P5, Hawkins in P6, Abbie Eaton in P7 and Moore in P8. Beitske Visser only managed P12 at her home race, but with the crowd behind her she will be looking to put some moves on the other drivers to make her way to the top.

Race starts at 16:30 local time (15:30 BST) tomorrow on Channel 4.

W Series Preview: The Dutch Comeback!

The Formula 1 circus arrives at Zandvoort for the first time in 36 years with the W Series there to be a part of it all for Round 6 of the championship. Having had plenty of work done to get the circuit ready, it is now 4.259Km long, 0.007Km shorter than the track which Niki Lauda won at in 1985. The track boasts a mixture of some high speed, cambered corners, and blind braking spots unlike any other circuit.

After last week’s crash during qualifying at Spa it was great to see all six drivers involved come out OK. Beitske Visser and Ayla Agren have both been cleared to race this weekend, and Visser especially will be looking to have a successful home race. She has a mixed experience with the circuit, having won her first race in ADAC Formel Masters Series back in 2012 there just 1 day after breaking her back. She showed then her determination to fight back to race and will do the same again this week.

Abbi Pulling is back for the second time for the PUMA W Series Team. Finishing in the top 10 at Silverstone, she had a strong performance on her W Series debut and will be looking to repeat this success after some disappointing recent results in British F4.

Only a few drivers other than Visser have experience of the track in different configurations. Pulling and Fabienne Wohlwend have the most recent experience, competing there in the 2019 Ginetta GT5 challenge and 2017 Audi TT Cup respectively, while Sarah Moore has raced the old track Emma Kimiläinen has tested at the circuit. This means the experience of the drivers is relatively level so this will be a test to see who can master the track over Friday and Saturday.

Can Chadwick extend her lead?

Emma Kimiläinen had a fantastic race last time out at Spa, winning by 8.4 seconds and passing both Jamie Chadwick and Alice Powell on her way to victory. With Chadwick finishing P2 and Powell finishing P4, there is now a 7 point gap at the top of the table between the defending champion and her rival.

Every point is crucial, and Alice will be looking to use her driving experience to gain knowledge on the track and have an advantage on Jamie Chadwick over the weekend. Both drivers will be aiming at maximum points so expect maximum attack from these 2 as the season starts to draw to a close. With just 3 rounds left, including Zandvoort, Powell can’t afford to lose sight of her competitor and Chadwick will be focused on extending the gap.

F1 returns to Zandvoort for the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix

After weeks, months, and even years of speculation, today it was finally announced that Formula One will make its return to the Netherlands, with the Dutch Grand Prix due to be held at Zandvoort from 2020 onwards.

The Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, as it will be named, will be the first Grand Prix held in the Netherlands for 35 years. The last was held in 1985, when three legendary F1 drivers stood on the podium:  Lauda, Prost and Senna.

For the special occasion, F1 chairman Chase Carey came to Zandvoort to finally make an end to all the speculation.

“We are particularly pleased to announce that Formula 1 is returning to race in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track,” he said. “From the beginning of our tenure in Formula 1, we said we wanted to race in new venues, while also respecting the sport’s historic roots in Europe.

“Next season therefore, we will have a brand new street race that will be held in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, as well the return to Zandvoort, after an absence of 35 years; a track that has contributed to the popularity of the sport all over the world.

Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool

“In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Formula 1 in Holland, mainly due to the enthusiastic support for the talented Max Verstappen, as seen from the sea of orange at so many races.

“No doubt this will be the dominant colour in the Zandvoort grandstands next year.”

He mentioned there is no official date for the Grand Prix for now, as the calendar has yet to be confirmed.

This announcement didn’t come as a big shock to fans, but it still has some major consequences. For instance, the Spanish Grand Prix will most likely have to be dropped from the calendar to make room. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has no contract for next year and this deal certainly spells trouble for them. The Dutch Grand Prix will probably be held in May, when F1 normally heads to Spain.

The track itself also needs improvements, especially in terms of infrastructure. The government didn’t want to spend any money, going against the wishes of track owner Prins Bernhard van Oranje. The local council of Zandvoort, however, agreed to contribute €4m for the construction of a new road to the circuit and organisation of other events outside the track during the Grand Prix weekend, so investors can profit from the race as well.

All problems aside, the Orange Army has gotten what it wanted so desperately, all caused by one F1 driver making millions of Dutchmen excited about the sport. The announcement comes in the same week that Max Verstappen is set to give a demo with his Red Bull around the circuit during the Jumbo Racing days. Coincidence?

[Featured image: Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool]