Max Verstappen and Red Bull had their double Dutch delight and won the Dutch GP for the 2nd time in a row, after starting from pole.
At a race filled with pit stop gambles and an alphabetical array of tire strategies, Verstappen came out on top of George Russell, who took P2 while Charles Leclerc claimed his 2nd podium in 10 races for P3, making a three-team podium for the weekend.
Lewis Hamilton too to the flag at P4 in a race that could have been his first win of 2022. A late tire gamble after Tsunoda’s bizarre on-track stop left him sitting duck against cars with faster-fresher tires. Verstappen got the better of the Briton after a late safety car, and had to settle for 4th after getting overtaken by his teammate as well as Leclerc. Sergio Perez came home 5th after a fairly mediocre race, followed by the Alpine of Fernando Alonso in his 10th consecutive points scoring race.
Lando Norris had a commendable show in one of the McLaren’s at 7th while Carlos Sainz had to settle for P8 after a stop with “three tires” and an unsafe pit lane release garnered him a 5s time penalty. Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll rounded up the final point’s places, with Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda being the only two race retirees.
Mercedes had a 1-2 on the cards for the race, but a rare breakdown of strategy operations for both drivers gathered them a 2-4 finish at best. Leclerc snatched his P2 in the championship back from Perez, albeit them being equal on points. That said, Verstappen currently has a dominating 109 points lead over the Monegasque while Mercedes are inching closer to Ferrari for P2 in the constructor’s.
The Dutch Grand Prix re-established Red Bull and Verstappen’s grasp over the championship this season. The team bounced back on Saturday with pole position after a woeful Friday, albeit by 2022’s closest margin.
Let’s look at the winners and losers for the weekend.
Winner: Red Bull
A no-brainer, Verstappen edged out his 2nd home Dutch GP win in a row. Red Bull started the weekend on the back foot, with a gearbox issue botching majority of its practice runs. On Sunday, the win weren’t to come easy for the Milton Keynes team against a strong Mercedes duo. But luck prevailed and with the team taking the right decisions at the right time, they made sure victory was in the bag. Things weren’t as rosy for the other RB driver of Sergio Perez. Despite a respectable P5, his sheer lack of pace in comparison to his teammate or other top-order drivers is something of a concern for Red Bull and its points tally (not that they need to break a sweat about it anytime soon).
Mercedes rendered one of their rarer race mishaps this time around, with an uncanny strategy error that sunk Lewis Hamilton’s potential win to a P4. Both cars looked competitive enough from the weekend’s get-go that the Brackley-based outfit were instant win favourites for the Dutch GP. Race pace and start tire strategy also seemed to be on point for a podium top step, but mid-race adaptations for the team were nothing short of a disaster. They could only manage a P2 from George Russell while Hamilton’s pit fallacy left him 2 places down. That said, the defending constructors’ champions have made enormous progress on their car, albeit Zandvoort not being a particularly speed-necessary track.
One needs to cut Ferrari some slack. I could have put them in the loser’s category, but managing a podium with an obvious lack of pace with respect to the competitors is fairly commendable, given recent form. Yes, they (again) botched a pit stop which put one of their driver’s P8, but the Italian team kept their strategy clean otherwise for a cleaner race for Charles Leclerc. Zandvoort was poised to be Ferrari’s stronghold in Red Bull’s playground, but their lack of pace seemed to have raised some concern all over the paddock. Binotto, on the other hand, is still in denial that his “strategy personnel do not need changes”, despite repeated failures over time.
The team is once again hopeful of an improvement of performance going into its home race this weekend, while Leclerc even reportedly said he has stopped keeping a tally of his point’s deficit to championship leader Verstappen.
Loser: Alfa Romeo
Starting off the season strong, Alfa Romeo could not have hoped for a worse deterioration in their performance, with one of their drivers consistently running out of points, while the other having his 3rd DNF in a row.
Alpine are on an uptick in recent races (at least at the race performance front) with having repeated points finishes and edging out a gap to McLaren in their fight for P4. A P6 and P9 finish with race-pace of both cars seemingly ‘on point’ for some good points at the Dutch GP. A well planned out execution of stops and tire strategies also helped them keep the McLaren of Lando Norris behind while even challenging Perez ahead of Alonso.
The Dutch Grand Prix was not exactly a snoozefest overall, but was quiet in terms of on-track racing. But all that is set to change next weekend as Formula 1 goes to the Temple of Speed at Monza, Italy.