18/04/2024

Max Verstappen celebrates his 10th victory of the season at Zandvoort. (Image: Red Bull Racing/Twitter)

Max Verstappen was brave in The Netherlands, as safety cars helped him climb to the top step of the podium.

Mercedes performed valiantly, holding onto the lead for the majority of the race thanks to Lewis Hamilton. Split-second decision-making was the downfall for Hamilton, as his teammate George Russell took P2.

Verstappen claims his second consecutive Dutch Grand Prix victory. He is the first driver to go back-to-back at Zandvoort since James Hunt in 1975 and 1976.

McLaren welcomes Oscar Piastri

On the weekend of the Dutch Grand Prix, McLaren announced the signing of Oscar Piastri ahead of the 2023 season. Following a decision from the Contract Recognition Board, Piastri was permitted to break ties with Alpine to race for McLaren.

Just over a week after McLaren announced the departure of fellow-Australian Daniel Ricciardo, all eyes were set on Piastri. A controversial month of deliberation has ended in agreement, yet Ricciardo is still without a seat for 2023.

It was discovered that McLaren had agreed to sign Piastri on August 4, whilst Ricciardo was unaware of his position.

Nonetheless, the signing of Piastri keeps a 20-year streak of Australian drivers in the sport alive. The streak began when Mark Webber made his debut in 2002.

Casualties of Zandvoort

Alpha Tauri’s Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda was the first of two drivers to retire from the race. Weirdly, there seemed to be several issues present prior to his eventual retirement.

After a pit stop, Tsunoda complained of a potential loose tyre, to which he sensibly slowed down and stopped the car. His mechanics assured him that was not the case and he resumed.

Tsunoda entered pit lane, presuming he may retire anyway, loosening his seatbelt. Alpha Tauri wanted the car to remain in the race, therefore Tsunoda had to tighten his belt once again.

When Tsunoda returned to the track, he then complained of an issue in the rear of the car. This forced another stop, which brought out a virtual safety car. Tsunoda retired from the race soon after on lap 48.

Valtteri Bottas was the second and final retirement of the race, due to an engine failure on lap 56. His car lost power on the pit straight, stopping before turn one.

Due to the placement of Bottas’ car, a full safety car was enforced to remove the car safely. This safety car would begin a major ripple effect throughout the field.

Carlos Sainz’s pit lane nightmare

Sainz will be thankful he won’t have to revisit Zandvoort’s pit lane anytime soon, after a nightmare on two occasions.

The first issue came from his first pit stop, which was slow, as Ferrari mechanics struggled to fit tyres hastily. This cost the Spaniard up to 10 seconds on track, falling down in the order.

Sainz made amends, quickly getting the tyres up to temperature and making up lost ground. But all was lost as the race heated up.

When Bottas triggered a safety car on lap 56, cars flooded the pit lane to fit softer compound tyres. Sainz was one of them and in the heat of the moment, was released into traffic on the exit from the pit box.

Upon the restart from the safety car, Sainz was slapped with a five-second time penalty. Despite finishing fifth on track, Sainz was relegated to P8, claiming only four points from the race.

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The highs and lows of Mercedes’ strategy

The majority of the field opted for a two-stop strategy, and it became apparent that Mercedes was attempting a one-stop. Both Hamilton and Russell stayed out longer in their first stint, before pitting and settling on the hard-compound.

Things appeared to be tracking well for Mercedes. Both drivers kept a consistent pace, making it difficult for Verstappen to claw his way back and make a free pit stop.

Mercedes were looking down the barrel of a hard-fought 1-2 finish, hoping things would go their way. That was until Bottas caused a safety car and chaos ensued.

At the time of the safety car, Mercedes were the frontrunners with Hamilton leading and Russell close behind.

Red Bull decided to box Verstappen for his last set of fresh soft compound tyres. Wanting to keep up with the pace, Russell demanded the same. His request was accepted, while Hamilton remained on used medium compound tyres.

When the race resumed, Hamilton was trounced by Verstappen, who overtook him before the first corner and ran away. The hometown hero stretched his lead to around one second by the time they completed a lap.

Hamilton continued to drop down the order, as runners on fresher tyres made their move. Russell jumped into P2, while Charles Leclerc climbed back onto the podium, Hamilton angrily settled for P4.

Verstappen goes clear

Verstappen valiantly claimed another race victory in an exciting race finish. He took the lead on the 61st lap of the race and stormed home for a convincing win.

The victory extends Verstappen’s lead in the championship. He is now 109 points clear of second-placed Leclerc, who is on equal points with Sergio Perez.

Verstappen now has 10 wins this season, the same amount he achieved last season, when he won the championship.

With only seven events left in the season, Verstappen is in the box seat to take home back-to-back championships. But for now, the competition remains alive, as the grid travels to Italy for the third consecutive race weekend.

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