Oracle Red Bull Racing wows Orange army in Zandvoort
Max extends his lead at the top of the Drivers’ Standings to 109 points while Checo is P3 but tied on 201 points with Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver in second place. Oracle Red Bull Racing leads Ferrari by 135 points in the Constructors’ Standings on 511 in total.
Discussing his win, driver Max Verstappen said: “Today was quite eventful and not a straightforward race at all, we had to make the right calls and it all worked out well in the end.
“Mercedes were very quick on the harder compound which we didn’t expect, so it made it more difficult for us as we were less compatible with the hards. We managed everything quite well and we made the right calls on the strategy so well done to the Team here and back at the factory.
“It’s always special to win your home grand prix but this year I had to work even harder for it. It’s incredible to win again in front of this crowd, we’ve had unbelievable support here and I’m proud to be Dutch.”
When the lights went out at the start, Max made a strong getaway which allowed the Dutchman to shrug off a challenge from Leclerc who also got of the line well ahead of Sainz.
Behind the top three, Checo tried to attack Lewis Hamilton on the run to the first corner, but the Mercedes driver dived across the track to block the Red Bull. And as Max roared into the lead ahead of Leclerc, Hamilton tried to go down the inside of Sainz. The pair made slight contact and though Hamilton was then slow through the banked turn three, Checo couldn’t find a way past the Mercedes man and settled into fourth place.
Max quickly began to draw away from Leclerc and by lap seven he’d carved out a 1.5s lead over the Ferrari driver. Checo, meanwhile, was trying to close on fourth-placed Hamilton, but as the Mercedes driver’s medium compound tyres hit their working range the Briton was able to keep the Red Bull driver at bay.
The Team pitted Checo at the end of lap 14, with the Mexican entering the pit lane just behind Sainz. The reactions of the Red Bull crew were quicker, however, and as Ferrari made a slow stop, Checo made the switch from softs to mediums in enough time to get out ahead of Sainz, despite running over a Ferrari wheel gun as he left his marks. He re-joined in P8, two spots ahead of Sainz.
Leclerc pitted from P2 at the end of lap 17 for mediums and the Team reacted by pitting Max at the end of the following lap. After a 3.4s stop for medium tyres, Max re-joined in P3 as Hamilton moved into the lead ahead of teammate George Russell, with both Mercedes going for a longer first stint on starting medium tyres.
With new tyres on board, the Bulls began to chase down the leading Mercedes cars and on lap 23 Max was just 2.6s behind Russell. Having risen through the order as others pitted, Checo was now in P5, 7.2 seconds behind Leclerc.
Max passed Russell at the start of lap 28 and began to chase down Hamilton. Mercedes immediately reacted by pitting the Briton for hard tyres in 2.6s and he emerged in fifth place, a little under six seconds behind Checo as Max once again took the lead.
Russell then pitted at the end of lap 31 for hard tyres and he came out in fifth place. Max now led the race, eight seconds clear of Leclerc, with Checo in third place. The top three were all on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Russell, in fourth and fifth respectively, were targeting a one-stop race.
Hamilton began to close on Checo and after a tough battle the Mercedes driver got past on lap 37 to take third place. Checo then came under pressure from Russell and on lap 39 the second Mercedes driver managed to get past the Red Bull under DRS on the pit straight.
Checo made his final pit stop at the end of lap 40 and he switched to hard tyres. He re-joined in seventh place, behind Norris.
The Mexican driver made it past the McLaren driver at the start of lap 44 but almost as soon as the overtake was completed, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda hit trouble, and after a confusion about the issue, the Japanese driver was told to stop. He pulled over at the side of the track and the VSC was deployed.
The Team reacted to the caution by pitting Max at the end of lap 48. He took on hard tyres and re-joined in the lead.
Mercedes, knowing that the time saved by Max’s stop under the VSC would give the Dutchman an advantage, then stacked its drivers, with both Hamilton and Russell switching to medium tyres. Hamilton came out in P2 with Russell third ahead of Leclerc. Checo was now fifth, just under seven seconds behind the lead Ferrari.
The complexion of the race changed again on lap 55. Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo ground to a halt at the end of the pit straight and the yellow flags were flown and a lap later the physical Safety Car was deployed
Max immediately pitted and he took on three-lap old soft tyres. Checo also headed to the pit lane and he took on a set of medium tyres as Leclerc pitted ahead. Mercedes pitted Russell who took on softs, but Hamilton stayed out, hoping to take his medium tyres to the end.
Behind the SC, Hamilton, on mediums, now led ahead of Max on softs, with Russell third ahead Leclerc and Checo, who was on mediums.
Ahead of the Safety Car leaving the track at the end of lap 60, Hamilton radioed through to his pit wall saying that it would be difficult to keep Max at bay, and he wasn’t wrong.
The Mercedes driver tried to pull away through the final corner but even without the benefit of DRS, Max, with better pace from his soft tyres, powered past the Mercedes on the pit straight to take the lead once more. Hamilton, on ageing tyres, was then passed by both Russell and Leclerc.
Checo, meanwhile, was involved in a titanic battle with Sainz. He couldn’t get past the Spanish driver but when the Ferrari man was handed a five-second penalty for an unsafe release, Checo knew that fifth place was his.
And just a few laps later Max crossed the line to take his 30th career win to send the Zandvoort crowd wild with delight.
Talking through his race, driver Sergio Perez said: “Obviously this is a great day for the Team but it wasn’t the best day at the office for me. I struggled with tyre degradation in the first and second stints and I never quite got the balance where I wanted it to be.
“It was a hectic race with incidents in the pit lane but I was lucky that my front wing wasn’t damaged when I drove over the wheel gun. Despite the difficulty I had, we managed to save some good points.
“There’s lots to take away from today and plenty to understand from our side so that we can come back strong in Monza.”
Commenting on Max’s home race, Team Principal Christian Horner said: “This was a huge race with an incredible amount of anticipation and pressure. It was also a tough race strategically.
“First with the virtual safety car and then of course the full safety car. To pit Max in the lead with 12 laps to go, putting him behind two Mercedes, is a big call, but it was the right one, we would prefer to be on the better tyre.
“However, what you see here is only 10% of the Team, it’s what goes on behind the scenes that really makes this possible. The Team is operating at an extremely high level and it’s all the support and effort that you don’t see back in Milton Keynes that makes a victory like this possible.
“All in all, it was a fantastic Team performance, both drivers were in the zone from the moment they arrived at the track.
“Checo was unfortunately jumped at the restart by Carlos and I think in hindsight we should have overruled his preference for medium tyre, but he had a strong race. We are in a great position and we are happy, although nothing is done until it is done.
“We operate one race at a time and we don’t allow ourselves to think too far ahead. It’s Monza next week, we are looking forward to it and hopefully can carry this form into that race.”
Zandvoort is the second of three consecutive race weekends and the paddock is now heading to Monza, home of Ferrari. With two consecutive race wins, the team will be looking to cement their lead in both championships at the Italian GP.