Dutch GP: Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton at home Zandvoort race and retakes F1 title lead
Max Verstappen retakes the F1 championship lead from Lewis Hamilton with victory in front of his passionate home Zandvoort support; Valtteri Bottas third in second Mercedes, with Pierre Gasly finishing impressive fourth for AlphaTauri
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/09/21 10:04pm
Max Verstappen sent his home crowd wild by winning his home Dutch GP from Lewis Hamilton to regain the world title lead from his Mercedes rival.
Verstappen led from the front and did not put a wheel wrong in the first home race of his career despite coming under pressure from Hamilton at different points of the Zandvoort race, played out in front of astonishingly vocal and colourful local support in the orange-clad grandstands.
Hamilton's three-point advantage at the start of the day now turns into a three-point deficit heading to next week's Italian GP at Monza, the second of the season's sprint race weekends.
"Obviously the expectations were high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil that, but I'm just so happy to win here, to take the lead in the championship as well," said Verstappen, the first Dutchman to win his home race.
"It's just an amazing day. The whole crowd... it's incredible."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff conceded: "Credit to him, credit to Red Bull, they were absolutely faultless today."
Valtteri Bottas finished a distant third in the second Mercedes. The Finn, on a long first stint, briefly led the race after the top two pitted for the first time but was only able to hold Verstappen at bay for so long before the Red Bull overtook.
Dropping back from the top two after his stop, Bottas was called in for a late tyre charge and, despite being urged out of it by the Mercedes pit wall, briefly took the fastest lap bonus point away from his team-mate. But Hamilton was being called in at the end of the penultimate lap and duly took the fastest lap back on the final tour.
Pierre Gasly, meanwhile, capped a stunning weekend for AlphaTauri by beating Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to finish fourth.
Fernando Alonso overtook countryman Carlos Sainz on the final lap for sixth place for Alpine.
From a pit-lane start after engine changes, Sergio Perez raced well to eighth place and four potentially crucial points for Red Bull in their constructors' fight with Mercedes. The reigning champions' advantage nonetheless grows slightly to 12 points.
Dutch GP race result: Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
5) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
6) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
7) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
8) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Lando Norris, McLaren
Title fight swings back Verstappen's way in front of Orange Army
Verstappen and Hamilton started on the grid's front row together for the first time since their acrimonious British GP collision three races ago but there was no repeat of the drama on the opening lap here.
Thanks to a textbook getaway from pole, Verstappen was already pulling nicely clear of his chief Mercedes pursuer through the circuit's long curved first corner and finished the opening lap with a lead of over one second.
That steadily grew through the first stint to around three seconds before Mercedes, initiating a two-stopper for their lead car, threw the dice first by pitting Hamilton on lap 20.
Red Bull successfully covered that a lap later by pitting Verstappen, meaning Bottas inherited the lead.
On significantly fresher tyres, Verstappen and Hamilton caught the now-lead Mercedes at a rate of knots and Bottas was only able to keep the Red Bull at bay for so long. Verstappen retook the lead with a move down the inside of Turn One at the start of lap 31, with Bottas then letting his team-mate through too.
Mercedes again tried to undercut Verstappen with Hamilton at the second stop, but Red Bull once more covered that off to keep their driver in front.
In what at the time appeared a potential advantage for Mercedes, Hamilton was now on a scrubbed set of medium tyres, whereas Verstappen was on the theoretically slower hard compound.
But Hamilton soon said to Mercedes over team radio: "Doesn't seem to be an advantage. Called our bluff too soon."
That did not stop the seven-time champion closing in to within two seconds of Verstappen's race lead as they navigated backmarkers but the threat of a victory challenge ultimately fizzled out.
"Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us but we countered them all the time really well," said Verstappen after the race.
"We can be really pleased with the whole team performance today."
Hamilton acknowledged: "What a race, what a crowd. Honestly it's been an amazing weekend. Max did a great job, congratulations to him. I gave it absolutely everything today, flat-out. I pushed as hard as I could. But they were just too quick for us."
Next up: The Italian GP - and the second sprint weekend
Formula 1's latest triple-header concludes with one of its most legendary events, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Not only that but next weekend marks the second of F1's sprint weekends after the debut of the trial format at Silverstone in July. Qualifying takes place this coming Friday night, at 5pm, with the sprint race then on Saturday afternoon. Sunday's Grand Prix at the 'Temple of Speed' is at 2pm on September 12. All live only on Sky Sports F1.