Lewis Hamilton cost a chance of victory by Safety Cars at the Dutch GP as he finished an unlucky fourth; Max Verstappen wins ahead of George Russell, who Mercedes pitted onto soft tyres rather than Hamilton; Carlos Sainz drops to eighth after penalty for another Ferrari blunder
Monday 5 September 2022 06:16, UK
Max Verstappen clinched a hard-fought home victory against Mercedes after strategy chaos in the Dutch Grand Prix, as a furious Lewis Hamilton dropped from the race favourite to an immensely unlucky fourth.
On an absorbing afternoon at Zandvoort, Hamilton twice looked like he had a big chance of clinching his first win of the season - before a VSC and after a full Safety Car - but, in the end, he slammed his Mercedes strategy.
Critically, Mercedes chose to pit George Russell for soft tyres and not Hamilton, leaving the then race leader vulnerable on mediums to a charging Verstappen, who passed his rival immediately upon the restart.
Russell and Charles Leclerc would then also overtake a hugely-frustrated Hamilton.
"That was the biggest **** up," said Hamilton on team radio. "I can't believe you guys ****** me man."
In winning in front of a partisan home crowd dressed in orange, Verstappen has extended his title lead to 109 points with just seven races remaining.
Sergio Perez finished fifth in the other Red Bull as Carlos Sainz lost the position - and dropped all the way down to eighth - after a five-second penalty for an unsafe release on another day of Ferrari strategy blunders.
Sainz had earlier been subject to a 12-second pit-stop to drop him out of contention at the front, before Perez ran over Ferrari's wheel gun as the misfiring Italian team seemingly were not ready with tyres for their driver.
Fernando Alonso recovered from a difficult qualifying to be 'best of the rest' for Alpine, who defeated McLaren on the track on a weekend when they were embarrassed off it amid the Oscar Piastri transfer saga.
Dutch GP Final Result, Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) George Russell, Mercedes
3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
7) Lando Norris, McLaren
8) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
Verstappen took a momentous and likely pivotal step to a second drivers' crown on Sunday by winning his fourth race in a row - but the home favourite was pushed extremely hard by Mercedes in a race of mixed strategies.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was cost by various race incidents, and arguably his own team.
As the race progressed, it looked like Verstappen would have to overtake both Hamilton and Russell on a tight circuit. But a bizarre Yuki Tsunoda stoppage - as AlphaTauri had tyre issues and then tried to reconnect his seatbelt - then triggered a Virtual Safety Car and a chance for the Dutchman to pit and not lose huge amounts of time.
Hamilton stopped too and Verstappen was in control again before a Valtteri Bottas DNF led to a full Safety Car with 15 laps remaining.
Verstappen stopped for the soft tyres, dropping him third behind the two Mercedes and leaving him again with the difficult prospect of passing two fast cars. But, soon after, Russell demanded soft tyres too and his team listened, now putting him third and leaving Hamilton a sitting duck on his eight-lap-old medium tyres.
Hamilton was overtaken by Verstappen on the start-finish straight immediately when the race restarted, and then dropped two more positions.
Hamilton blasted his team in an expletive-ridden radio message, and after the race team boss Toto Wolff apologised but stressed the team were always going to take a "risk". Hamilton, having calmed down slightly, praised the mechanics and the team's result, with Mercedes now appearing Red Bull's main challengers.
"First of all, Lewis is ahead. So we're always having a problem with the call," Wolff said to Sky Sports F1, defending the decision.
"You can do two things. You can either pit Lewis, lose track position against Verstappen, and leave George out - screwed. You can pit both - screwed.
"So it was worth taking the risk."
Ferrari finished with a podium in Zandvoort although it was another disappointing day on the track and off of it due to some embarrassing errors.
Ferrari, minus a spirited Leclerc attack at the very start, never had the pace to contend for the victory despite finishing within a tenth of Verstappen in qualifying and then cost Sainz in the pit-lane.
On Lap 12, Ferrari did not seem ready for Sainz after the Spaniard pitted from third, and he lost over 10 seconds before Perez then ran over a wheel gun.
Later, it got even worse for Sainz as he was released unsafely in front of Alpine's Alonso.
While he won his battle for fifth with Perez after the restart, he dropped three positions thanks to a five-second penalty which the Spaniard criticised.
Ferrari now head into a huge race - their home Italian GP, live on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday, September 11 - under increased scrutiny with their 2022 season falling apart somewhat after such an encouraging start.