Brilliant Verstappen storms to home Dutch Grand Prix triumph
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Home favourite Max Verstappen snatched the world championship lead from Lewis Hamilton on Sunday as the Red Bull driver produced a scintillating performance to win the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985.
A week after the farcical washout in Belgium, pole-sitter Verstappen controlled the race from the start in bright sunshine at a circuit set in coastal sand dunes at the beach resort of Zandvoort.
His seventh win in 13 races this season turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead over seven-time world champion Hamilton ahead of Monza next weekend.
Hamilton came in second, setting the fastest lap on the final lap to earn a consolation bonus point, with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas a distant third.
“As you can hear already, it’s just incredible,” said Verstappen, roared on by some 70,000 orange-clad fans at a venue where the last winner was Niki Lauda for McLaren 36 years ago.
“Expectations were high going into the weekend, I’m so happy to win here. It’s such an amazing day, the whole crowd, incredible.”
Verstappen, who earned half points for his win over two laps behind the safety car at Spa last Sunday, pulled away on the opening lap here, keeping Hamilton in his rear-view mirror and surging clear.
A narrow track with punishing deep gravel traps made overtaking difficult, prompting Mercedes to use varying strategies for Hamilton and Bottas to ramp up the pressure on Verstappen.
Hamilton pitted on lap 21, inducing Red Bull to immediately call Verstappen in and leaving Bottas briefly at the head of the field.
Verstappen retook the lead as he burst past Bottas down the final straight on lap 31 to the sound of bellowing roars from the grandstand, but with the Finn having allowed Hamilton to eat away at the gap to the Dutchman.
Verstappen delights home crowd
Hamilton again came in on lap 40 to switch to medium tyres, needing to pick his way through traffic as he returned to the track.
A nerveless Verstappen continued to frustrate his title rival who feared his tyres wouldn’t last to the finish.
As Verstappen cruised towards the line, igniting jubilant celebrations along the North Sea coast, Hamilton entered the pits for the third time in a successful last-ditch attempt at the quickest lap.
On a day that began with Verstappen showing Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima around the Red Bull garage, Hamilton though simply had no answer to a regal display from the 23-year-old.
“Max did a great job, congratulations to him. I gave it everything, they were just too quick for us,” said Hamilton, again frustrated in his bid to become the first man to win 100 Grands Prix.
“They had that upper edge, and it’s very hard to follow here. The last lap was one of the best parts of the race for me – single lap, low fuel. This is now one of my favourite tracks.”
Pierre Gasly took fourth in his AlphaTauri ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Fernando Alonso made up three places on the grid to finish sixth followed by Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari.
Sergio Perez, who began the race in the pit lane after an engine change, came home eighth with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris of McLaren completing the top 10.