Zandvoort in The Netherlands was the setting for the 13th round of the 2021 World Championship and the Dutch could not be more ecstatic as their local boy Max Verstappen not only won his home Grand Prix, leading the entire 72-lap race from pole, but also takes back the lead in the Drivers’ Championship over his title rival Lewis Hamilton, with Valtteri Bottas taking the final podium position.
It was Verstappen’s seventh win of the season at this historic race, as it was the first time the Dutch Grand Prix has taken place since 1985. The twisting 2.6-mile circuit, with its three new banked corners has an old school feel to it which made it popular with the drivers who love the Suzuka-esque feel to it.
The Dutch Grand Prix is perhaps the most atmospheric on the calendar, despite being limited to two-thirds capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. The ‘Orange Army’ of fans, which included members of the Dutch royal family gave a festival feel to the grandstands and fanzones with the crowd bringing a carnival atmosphere to the first Dutch Grand Prix for 36 years.
A very late pit stop for Hamilton to take on fresh rubber meant he managed to get the fastest lap bonus point on the very last lap of the race after Bottas was instructed not to attempt to take the fastest lap honours.
Pierre Gasly drove a superb race for AlphaTauri to take fourth, ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. Alpine continue to progress with Fernando Alonso crossing the line sixth, having been able to squeeze past Calos Sainz’s Ferrari on the last lap of the race. Sainz finished just ahead of eighth placed Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, who did well to score some decent points following his pit lane start. Estaban Ocon took ninth to bring both Alpine’s home in the top ten, while Lando Norris took the final point for McLaren just ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo who finished 11th.
It was not such a good day for Aston Martin, who came away from the Dutch Grand Prix with no points, with Lance Stroll finishing 12th and teammate Sebastian Vettel just behind him in 13th. The two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen came 14th and 15th respectively ahead of Nicholas Latifi in 16th. George Russell was classified 17th ahead of Mick Schumacher in the Haas.
Verstappen’s victory here in Holland means that he is now the driver with the most wins in F1 history without winning a title, passing the legendary Stirling Moss. He is also the 19th driver to lead 1,000 career laps which moves him into the championship lead, three points clear of championship rival Hamilton.
Verstappen summed up his victory by saying:
“It’s incredible to win here today on another home track and it feels great to take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship again. Of course, the expectations were very high coming into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that, but the whole crowd has been incredible, and I am so happy to win here. It was quite a tough race. Lewis was really putting the pressure on and both Mercedes’ had really good pace, but we managed to have that three-second buffer when we needed it and I think that was very important. We can be really pleased with the whole Team performance – we made the right calls, and we managed the race really well. 72 laps around this track is cool, especially in front of all these fans – they were incredible throughout the whole race. I’ve never experienced anything like this before in my life. I will, of course, celebrate at home this evening, but Monza is just around the corner and the championship fight is tight, so I want to make sure we perform at our best.”
“What a race and what a crowd, honestly, it’s been an amazing weekend. Max did a great job so congrats to him. I gave it everything I had out there, but they were just too quick for us this weekend. I think even if we’d have got everything right today with the traffic, the pit stops and the strategy, it’d still have been tough to get by them. We didn’t get those elements spot on, but either way, we pushed as much as we could and we’ll take it offline, debrief and see how we could have improved. We’ll be fighting right to the end. It was an incredibly difficult race out there, physically and mentally I think it was one of the toughest, but it’s an amazing track. The fastest lap at the end was one of my favourite parts of the race, it’s an incredible track to drive on low fuel, this is one of my favourite tracks now and I’ve had a great time here in Holland, so I’m looking forward to coming back next year.”
Despite Hamilton taking the extra point for the fastest lap after a quick pit stop at the end of the race, Verstappen now leads the championship by three points, having gone into the weekend trailing by three points. He drove an impeccable race from start to finish much to the delight of the Dutch fans.
Monza is the venue for the last of this triple header next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix on 12th September. Last year Pierre Gasly took his first victory for AlphaTauri, but will Max Verstappen make it a third win in a row. The F1 Sprint format also returns for the second time this season. All will be revealed next weekend.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team