Max Verstappen captured the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix, making it four consecutive race victories for the first time in his career.
Max Verstappen took another substantial step towards his second world championship after his home victory at Zandvoort in the Dutch Grand Prix. The Dutchman’s tenth victory of the 2022 season sent a passionate home crowd into raptures, leaving him 109 points ahead of teammate Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
With 12 laps remaining, the Dutchman took advantage of fresher tyres, fitted during a late Safety Car period, to overtake race leader Lewis Hamilton, struggling on worn tyres.
Mercedes had gambled that the seven-time World Champion could outdrive Verstappen to the flag, but the Brit’s tyres made him a sitting duck.
At the race restart, the Dutchman instantly knifed past his 2021 title rival and disappeared in the distance. He was followed by Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Hamilton fell to fourth by the finish, a victim of events beyond his control.
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) nipped fifth from Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Lando Norris (McLaren). Carlos Sainz claimed eighth for Ferrari, followed by Esteban Ocon (Alpine), with Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) taking the final point.
Nevertheless, Max Verstappen and the Red Bull team delivered the goods on Saturday, pipping Charles Leclerc to win pole position by two-hundredths of a second. Leclerc managed to string together a series of personal bests to score a 1m12.345s for the front row, a mere 0.004s ahead of Sainz.
Behind the Spaniard, Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez spun out on the final turn of his qualifying campaign. The ensuing yellow flag stopped some drivers, notably Lewis Hamilton, from improving their provisional positions.
Zandvoort is one of the shorter circuits of the F1 season. With challenging banked curves and undulating shorter straights, cars carry huge downforce loads giving less straight-line speed.
Such track conditions have suited the mercurial Mercedes and Ferrari cars more this season, so Red Bull faced the need to dial out their RB18’s immense straight-line speed for more grip.
Red Bull appeared to falter in FP1 as Verstappen stopped on track 10 minutes into the first practice session. The Dutchman revealed it was a “gearbox” issue over team radio moments later.
It would be soft tyres for Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Tsunoda and Stroll at the top of the pack, with mediums for Hamilton, Russell, Norris, and Schumacher.
Pirelli recommended a two-stop strategy, soft-medium-medium or medium-soft-medium. But positioning is crucial at a tricky-to-overtake track like Zandvoort, which could tempt drivers into only taking one pitstop.
At lights out, Verstappen held his lead, but there was contact between Sainz and Hamilton, who managed to hold on to fourth place.
Leclerc was already +1.208 behind Verstappen as a misty rain began to fall on Lap 5. Schumacher dropped to tenth, ahead of Tsunoda after losing ground to Ocon and Stroll.
By Lap 14, Verstappen is streaking away with a comfortable lead, with Leclerc now two seconds behind. On the next lap, Hamilton moves into third as Sainz pits, with Russell moving into fourth.
Sainz arrived in his pit with no rear tyre ready. Worse, Perez pitted directly behind Sainz and exited his box, clipping the Spaniard’s tyre gun. Sainz rejoined now in 11th.
Leclerc takes his pitstop on Lap 18, moving Hamilton into second place. Verstappen then takes his stop, moving Hamilton into the lead. Verstappen comes out into third, behind Hamilton and Russell, whose mediums can leave them out slightly longer.
On Lap 21, Verstappen set another fastest lap from third as he pushed to gain on Russell and Hamilton. The Mercedes were the last cars on the track that hadn’t pitted, and this was the first race of the season that they held 1-2. It remained to be seen if they were attempting a one-stop.
Approaching Turn 1 on Lap 28, Verstappen pinned Russell inside as he completed a swooping outside pass. Now in second, the Dutchman had Hamilton in his sights, just +2.287s ahead.
Before the Dutchman closed any further, Hamilton pitted on Lap 29, slipping on a new set of hard tyres. Would the Brit try a one-stop strategy until the end?
By Lap 33, Verstappen knew he couldn’t match Hamilton’s pace. Moreover, the Brit and teammate Russell were now trading fastest laps in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Leclerc held second place, +8.340s to Verstappen on Lap 37, while Hamilton and Russell drew closer.
On Lap 44, as Sainz pitted, Verstappen held the lead, with Leclerc +11.229. Suddenly, Tsunoda slowed, triggering a yellow flag.
“Tyres not fitted!” he said over the radio. A scramble of confusing calls between AlphaTauri and Tsunoda as he pitted followed.
He finally exited on Lap 47, but the situation remained baffling. Still insisting he was in trouble, Tsunoda was instructed to leave the racing line to park on the grass. This triggered the Virtual Safety Car on Lap 48, which entirely changed the race’s complexion.
Verstappen immediately stopped for hard tyres for what he thought would be his final stop. Hamilton stopped on the next lap for mediums, as did Russell, both conceding that (by rules) they couldn’t gain any advantage in the lead under the VSC.
It meant perfect timing for Verstappen as he retained his lead. However, Hamilton on the mediums might prove faster than Verstappen’s hard tyres.
The VSC ended on Lap 50 with Verstappen in the lead once again. Now, Hamilton would have to chase down the Dutchman.
On Lap 55, Hamilton, in second place, set a new fastest lap, +11.130 behind Verstappen in the lead. At that moment, Valtteri Bottas stopped on the main straight, triggering a yellow flag.
Verstappen was first into the pits again, taking on softs. Hamilton stayed out to assume the race lead. Just before the end of the VSC, Russell ducked into the Mercedes pit box and onto the softs. The decision cost him a position to Verstappen but meant he emerged ahead of Charles Leclerc, who had also stopped for softs.
As the race restarted, Hamilton was the only driver at the front of the field who hadn’t fitted new tyres.
The instant the VSC ended, Verstappen leapt forward to engage the Brit. Benefitting from a tow through Turn 14 on Lap 60, Verstappen pulled up, then wheel to wheel with Hamilton, before slicing across the racing line to swipe the lead from Hamilton’s fingertips.
Seeing Hamilton’s struggle on Lap 64, Russell edged across the line to try and fight his teammate as Hamilton held his position. Russell backed out, narrowly avoiding a crash, but Russell passed Hamilton for Second place further up the track.
By Lap 65, Leclerc closed the gap to half a second, breathing down Hamilton’s neck for third. Just as they made the final turn, Leclerc launched his overtake and seized the final podium position.
Up ahead, Verstappen extended his lead over Russell to three seconds, with Leclerc now holding third, a second behind him. Back amid the pack, Stroll pushed Gasly out of the final point in 10th.
Sadly, at the flag, Sainz received a 5sec time penalty for an unsafe release that put him out of the points.