Max Verstappen weathered the storm at his home Grand Prix to win at Zandvoort and record his ninth-consecutive victory, whilst Charles Leclerc’s miserable weekend ended with a retirement.
At the Dutch Grand Prix, on home soil, Verstappen edged ever closer to a third consecutive title. However, unlike for much of this season, he didn’t have it all his own way with rain mixing up the field in the early stages.
Despite getting off to a clean start and retaining first place from pole, rain struck on the first lap. Those who anticipated the rain, notably teammate Sergio Perez, profited from his early change onto intermediates giving him the lead.
However, by the time drivers began to change back onto slicks, Verstappen found himself once again in his familiar position at the front of the pack. That lead was never conceded, even despite another, and much heavier shower in the dying stages.
Surprise podium for Gasly
As the grid changed from intermediates to full wets in worsening conditions, Guanyu Zhou went into the barriers, bringing out a red flag. Perez looked to have been the big loser, having found himself in the pits at the time of the neutralisation of the race, but his third place was then reinstated.
However, the Mexican was penalised for speeding in the pitlane, having tapped the wall on the way in. Perez didn’t challenge Fernando Alonso, who drove flawlessly on his way to second place, behind the invincible Verstappen.
Nightmare weekend for Leclerc
The five-second penalty incurred by Perez allowed Pierre Gasly to earn just the second podium of his career. The result was timely for Alpine, who have been off the pace and error-strewn for much of the season.
Close friend Leclerc didn’t have such fortune. The Monégasque endured a difficult weekend in the Netherlands. Having crashed out of qualifying, he damaged his floor early-on in Sunday’s race. That damage proved terminal, with Leclerc struggling in the lower-midfield, Ferrari retired the car on lap 43 of 72.
Ferrari’s difficulties continue, whilst the team that they rivalled last season, Red Bull, are imperious. The team have won every race so far this season, with Verstappen winning the last nine. The Dutchman is in a league of his own, and having weathered the storm at the his home Grand Prix, it is clear that he won’t be denied a third consecutive title.
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Photo source: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office