Verstappen Dominates Despite Dutch Deluges
Formula 1 leapt back into action this weekend at Zandvoort in the Netherlands after the four week summer break and, when the chequered flag was waved at the end of this afternoon’s at times very wet Dutch Grand Prix, it was Red Bull’s local hero Max Verstappen who thrilled the massed ranks of drenched home supporters by claiming the victory spoils with his 11th win of the season and his ninth in a row.
Max Verstappen again proved to be in a class of his own
Despite the Mercedes F1 part owner and team principal Toto Wolff having indicated what now seems like an eternity ago that a deal was set to be announced within days about Sir Lewis Hamilton staying with the team after his current contract expires later this year and despite there having been plenty of free time during the summer break to conclude such matters, the British multiple champion is still refusing to agree to remain with the team beyond the end of this season. Wolff has explained that he has done all he can to try to persuade Hamilton, who hasn’t won a Grand Prix since back in December 2021, to stay, but the driver is still unwilling to sign the offered contract. Its length, the financials and the number of sponsor events which a driver is required to attend are usually the key factors involved.
Elsewhere on the driver front and in a far simpler manner, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg are delighted that it was confirmed in the build-up to this weekend that both will be retained by the Haas team for at least a further season after the current one ends.
2023 Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 2hrs24m4.411s
2 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +3.744s
3 Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +7.058s
4 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) +10.068s
5 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +12.541s
6 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +13.209s
7 Lando Norris (McLaren) +13.232s
8 Alex Albon (Williams) +15.155s
9 Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +16.580s
10 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +18.346s
11 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +20.087s
12 Nico Hülkenberg (Haas) +20.840s
13 Liam Lawson (AlphaTauri) +26.147s
14 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +26.410s
15 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +27.388s
16 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +29.893s
17 George Russell (Mercedes) Retired
18 Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) Retired
19 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) Retired
20 Logan Sargeant (Williams) Retired
Away from current Formula 1, a very unusual and perhaps questionable legal battle is seemingly imminent as the Brazilian former F1 driver Felipe Massa and his legal team have written to the FIA governing body and Formula One Management, outlining the basis of his claims about the circumstances under which he lost the 2008 title to Hamilton in Brazil by a single point and the alleged related loss of unspecified, but significant income. The main allegation raised by Massa and his legal team is that the FIA governing body and Formula One Management failed to act within a reasonable timescale about the behaviour of the Renault team at that year’s Singapore Grand Prix when Nelson Piquet Jnr was instructed to crash deliberately to help his team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race, which the latter duly did. Massa believes that, If the incident had been investigated in 2008 rather than the following year and relevant punishments had been meted out at the time, the outcome might have helped Massa to become the 2008 champion for Ferrari instead of Hamilton. Time will tell whether Massa is retrospectively made the 2008 champion in place of Hamilton, but the odds seem heavily stacked against the likeable Brazilian succeeding, even if he and his legal team believe they have a valid claim.
... Felipe Massa and his legal team have written to the FIA governing body and Formula One Management, outlining the basis of his claims about the circumstances under which he lost the 2008 title ...
In another interesting little side story, 28 year old Dutch racer Nyck de Vries, who was unceremoniously dropped by the AlphaTauri team earlier this year after failing to achieve sufficiently acceptable results in his rookie F1 season, has revealed during the summer break that next month he will be heading to the world renowned Harvard in the USA to study leadership and negotiation. This will certainly be a big change of direction for the former F2 and Formula E champion as by his own admission he never even got round to finishing his high school education in his native Netherlands.
Lewis Hamilton making his usual eye-catching paddock appearance, whilst still refusing to sign a new Mercedes contract
The Zandvoort circuit on the Dutch coast is relatively short and twisty, being just 2.646 miles in length, but the nearby dunes tend to shelter it from the North Sea, if not the sand. It features some heavy banking, including at the final corner which also includes a DRS deployment zone, but overtaking is difficult, with the run to Turn 1 the best opportunity. This all makes qualifying, race strategy and tyre management crucial and the team strategists were all well aware that last year’s Grand Prix featured both a Virtual Safety Car and a full Safety Car deployment.
Turning to the ontrack action, Verstappen had arrived at his home event with a 125 point Drivers’ Championship lead over his second placed team-mate Sergio Pérez and, come Friday’s opening free practice session, he set the fastest time ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Hamilton and Pérez, the latter almost half a second slower then the reigning champion though. There were late red flags too after Hülkenberg had an off at the penultimate corner.
Friday’s second practice period also featured a red flag stoppage after Oscar Piastri had crashed his McLaren at Turn 3 and Daniel Ricciardo quickly did likewise at the same place in his AlphaTauri, the Australian hurting his left hand after failing to let go of the steering wheel before the impact with the barriers and having to subsequently be taken to a local hospital, where the diagnosis was a fractured metacarpal. This clearly ruled him out of any further part in the Dutch weekend, probably also sidelining him until at least the Singapore weekend in mid September, and the Red Bull management opted to give their 21 year old reserve driver Liam Lawson from New Zealand, who was already on site, an opportunity to make his F1 race debut in the vacated AlphaTauri. How unforeseen circumstances can sometimes give a driver a totally unexpected but wonderful opportunity when expecting to spend the weekend at the track but very much just looking on from the sidelines. Come the end of the restarted practice session it was Lando Norris’ McLaren which topped the timesheets ahead of Verstappen and the Williams of Alex Albon.
Kiwi Liam Lawson suddenly had his F1 chance after Daniel Ricciardo fractured a bone in his left hand
The wet conditions were treacherous when yesterday morning’s third and final practice session began and this was reflected in Magnussen, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and the debutant Lawson all causing further red flag stoppages. However, as the track started to dry, Verstappen went fastest, with Mercedes’ George Russell and Pérez the best of the rest.
When those famous red lights went out we had a clean start and Alonso quickly swept past Albon and Russell at Turn 3 to claim third position...
The qualifying hour is always the most important aspect of every F1 weekend bar the Grand Prix itself and intermediate wet weather tyres were still required as the session began at 15.00 local time yesterday, although slicks were suitable later. The Top Ten Shootout featured two further red flag delays caused firstly by Logan Sargeant’s Williams at Turn 2 and then Charles Leclerc, who extensively damaged the lefthand side of his Ferrari at Turn 9. Verstappen went on to delight all the orange clad home fans by claiming pole position here at Zandvoort for a third year running ahead of Norris and Russell, with Albon driving superbly to take fourth. In contrast, although AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was given a three-place penalty for impeding Hamilton during the second part of qualifying, the Mercedes driver admitted that his biggest problem was that he simply wasn’t quick enough as he ended up only 13th on the grid for this afternoon’s race.
As the start neared the track conditions were dry, although plenty of menacing dark clouds loomed overhead, and the crowd were whipped up into a frenzy by the ultra modern music being blasted out of the loudspeakers around the circuit. This was followed by a change of musical mood as Andre Rieu led a version of the Dutch national anthem and then it was time to go racing. When those famous red lights went out we had a clean start and Alonso quickly swept past Albon and Russell at Turn 3 to claim third position, but come the second half of the opening lap we had an almighty downpour of heavy rain, with some drivers pitting instantly for intermediate tyres whilst others delayed their stops. This meant that by lap five Pérez was leading from Zhou, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Verstappen.
Fernando Alonso was delighted to be back on the podium for Aston Martin
Soon though the reigning champion was past Gasly and Zhou and closing on Pérez when conditions dictated more pit stops for a return to slick rubber. Verstappen was the first of the two Red Bulls out front to pit and the undercut helped him to regain the lead after Perez’s own second stop before pulling clear. Logan Sargeant then forced a Safety Car intervention after badly damaging his Williams car at Turn 8. Racing resumed at the start of lap 22 with Verstappen leading from Pérez, Alonso and Gasly and putting in a string of ever improving fastest laps. Further stops followed as new sets of slicks were required, but chaos was to follow when a further bout of forecast extremely heavy rainfall arrived and intermediates or full wet weather tyres were needed. With Tsunoda and Zhou flying off the track at the opening corner, the race was stopped with further red flags and a pause ensued to allow the removal of Zhou’s car and barrier repairs.
The local DJ had the grandstands dancing to more loud music and showed a certain sense of humour by playing “Walking on Sunshine” before the Grand Prix continued behind the Safety Car with seven laps remaining. The Safety Car then left Verstappen to lead a rolling restart and he eased away to reach the chequered flag ahead of Alonso, Pérez and Gasly, but a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane demoted the Mexican off the podium to fourth, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Hamilton completing the top six finishers. Alonso claimed the extra point for the fastest lap of the race.
Next up in just one week’s time comes the Italian Grand Prix at the iconic Monza circuit just outside Milan and so the priority after today’s race was to get everything packed away as quickly as possible before the massed fleet of transporters hit the road bound for a journey across Europe to northern Italy. With the cars due back in action for the opening practice session on Friday there was no time to waste, but the F1 logistics behind what happens on track is always well planned in advance and so impressive. Monza is the opposite of Zandvoort in that it is very much a low downforce track, long known as the Temple of Speed, with various high velocity straights linked by chicanes and the 180 degree Parabolica sweep at the end of each lap, and it will certainly challenge the drivers and cars in different ways to today’s Dutch venue.
2023 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship
1 Max Verstappen 339
2 Sergio Pérez 201
3 Fernando Alonso 168
2023 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship
1 Red Bull 540
2 Mercedes 255
3 Aston Martin 215