F1 – Dutch GP – Race

Hallo, MiniFans! The morning started out with a bit of rain and clouds covering the circuit, but the sun soon broke through. However, the weather radars still showed small showers around the track, which could come at any time, adding a bit of spice to the strategies concocted by the teams.

Almost everyone chose softs to start, in part due to the high probability of rain just at the start as confirmed by an Aston Martin radio to Alonso, with Hamilton being the odd one out with his mediums, as he was fully out of position in 13th on the grid. While the cars were lining up for the start, it was clear that water was falling from the sky. In these tricky conditions, Alonso showed his mastery and overtook both Russell and Albon in a banked corner, as well as Norris one lap later. Despite the increasing rain, nobody from the front dared to pit at the end of lap one, but those further at the back did, with Pérez leading the charge. One lap later, after seeing all the spray and difficulty in driving with the amount of water on track, Verstappen and Alonso decided to go for it too.

Mayhem ensued, with Norris reassuring his team he’d be able to keep the car on track but eventually losing a ton of time as it was clear the intermediate tyre was the correct choice. He and Russell eventually pitted too, but it was too little too late. Once the movements in the pits and on the track, as cars with inters gained grip and overtook those still on slicks, the order presented with Pérez commanding the race, due to having stopped one lap earlier and not having struggled with the softs on water. Verstappen and Alonso were slowly but surely climbing up, overtaking those who had also pitted, including backmarkers and midfielders like Zhou and Gasly, but also Leclerc. However, Ferrari had more problems than just this, as they had been struggling with downforce all weekend and the Monegasque had front wing damage.

Despite reports of further rain in not too much time, softs had already started to show they were better tyres for the conditions, so some drivers, including Alonso and Verstappen, were called in to exchange green for red. Once everyone was back on dry tyres, Verstappen was back on the lead, followed by Pérez, who had taken a massive advantage of being the first one on inters earlier, and Alonso. On the other hand, Norris had dropped to 12th and Russell was in 18th. One of the few drivers not to have changed tyres, Piastri, was funnily still in his starting position, after having navigated a rollercoaster of gained and lost positions.

With the sun finally shining, a dry lane was starting to be created, but the sky wasn’t keeping the water for itself, once again letting it fall. Nonetheless, it wasn’t as heavy as before, only a drizzle. The track outside of the dry lane was still wet, though, and it seemed to be the cause of Sargeant’s mistake, who spun and crashed, causing the safety car to go out so that his car could be retrieved and the barriers repaired.

Verstappen dictated the speed at the restart, as his teammate defended from Alonso and Sainz kept on trying to get past Gasly, who was still in fourth but would need to comply for a 5-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Once having tried his luck, however, Alonso backed down slightly, knowing that he could never fight the Red Bulls head on in dry conditions. After a bit of cooling down, he showed his spirit again, getting within Pérez’s DRS range, even if he would eventually drop out of it, but only after having built enough of a gap to Gasly.

Halfway through the race, the forecast predicted rain again, when Albon was still sporting the tyres he had been wearing on the grid, a set of softs that seemed in shape, which added to his incredible pace had kept him in sixth place. Meanwhile, Leclerc and his problems weren’t over, as he was having trouble out of the points to try and keep Lawson behind.

The first promised rain never came, but the clouds were still threatening to ger over the track and unload. In a very staggered manner, the cars trickled into the pitlane for what could be their last tyre change, save for a repeat of the start, but each lap that went by, the forecast seemed to delay the arrival of the rain. Most stops were swift, but Alonso suffered an 8-second stop due to problems with the front left tyre and gun, losing the podium position to Sainz, at least temporarily. The two-time world champion isn’t a stranger to having to fix his team’s problems and he kept chipping away at the gap, setting the fastest lap of the race in the meantime, until he was right up the Ferrari’s rear wing and got past in the first chance he got, stepping back up into 3rd.

With fifteen laps to go, radios started going wild letting drivers know of the incoming rain, which was predicted to be harder and probably last to the end of the race. Raincoats on the grandstands, added to Russell almost losing the car, seemed to indicate that it was starting to make an appearance in a few select corners. Just as it had happened at the start, it started very light but soon was pouring down. The first of the top ones to pit for inters was Pérez, followed by Gasly and Sainz as Mercedes did a double stop. Verstappen and Alonso, however, waited for one more lap but managed to save their spots despite the now falling rain.

The last ten laps saw an immense amount of water on the track but only one car with full wets, even if Ocon didn’t seem happy with the choice at the beginning. Pérez went wide in the first corner, but wasn’t the only one, and Zhou ended up crashing into the barriers in that same turn, forcing a virtual safety car that Verstappen used to fit full wets just in case, as he had a free stop, unlike his teammate, who also pitted but got knocked down to sixth. A red flag finally came out with seven laps to go due to both needing to fix the barriers and the lack of visibility.

After a long period of red flag, the race was announced to finally go underway with compulsory intermediate tyres for everyone, a rolling start and two laps behind the safety car, as well as an order that placed Pérez behind Alonso and those with one less lap were allowed to do it before lining up again behind the safety car. The delicate conditions for the last six laps meant that drivers took great care as Pérez scored a 5-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane and Verstappen looked uncomfortable with the attachment of his HANS. Alonso kept his sight on the home hero as Gasly tried to stay close to Pérez to try and score a podium. Behind them, the battle for fifth was taking place between Sainz, who was giving his all defending, and Hamilton, who, despite all his efforts, couldn’t manage to get past the Ferrari before the checkered flag signalled the end of yet another race won by Max Verstappen.

Zandvoort is one of those tracks that always gets (fairly) compared to Monaco: tight, narrow and compact, albeit with the difference that it is not surrounded by walls and overtaking is ever so slightly easier, but not by much. However, just as it happened in the most exclusive track on the calendar, the Dutch GP got spiced up by the rain right at the beginning and the end. The winner was the expected one, but he needed to put more work in that usual, while Alonso’s experience helped him clinch another podium, which was completed by an Alpine in the shape of Gasly, thanks to Pérez’s late penalty. The temple of speed now awaits a Max Verstappen’s who’s now equalled Ascari and Vettel’s nine consecutive wins to see whether he will lead that leaderboard on his own as well.