WITH VICTORY IN RAIN-HIT DUTCH GRAND PRIX
Max Verstappen shrugged off downpours, Safety Cars and a red flag to take his third straight win on home soil at the Dutch Grand Prix and to equal Sebastian Vettel’s decade-old record of nine consecutive wins.
The Red Bull driver briefly lost the lead as heavy rain midway through the opening lap led to team-mate Sergio Pérez to pit for Intermediate tyres and rise up the order as many drivers, including Verstappen , held off until the end of the second tour. But once equipped with Inters Verstappen rose through the order to retake the lead on lap and then led the race through Safety Cars, more heavy rain and red flags in the closing stages to take his 46th career win ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Alpine’s jubilant Pierre Gasly.
When the lights went out at the start, Verstappen got away well from pole position and took the lead ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Behind them, Alonso was the major mover, rising from fifth on the grid to third place in the opening three corners.
However, halfway around the first lap the heavens opened and Pérez was the first to react. While Verstappen, Norris and Alonso stuck with slick Soft tyres, the Mexican, followed by a stream of cars, pitted for Intermediates.
Pérez dropped down the order but as the rain intensified it became clear that slick tyres were not suitable and Verstappen pitted at the end of lap two. Pérez, meanwhile, was rocketed through the field and after passing Mercedes’ George Russell at the start of third lap, he took the lead, 14 seconds clear of Verstappen who was now in fifth place, behind Gasly.
Verstappen was soon on the move, however, and when Russell pitted and dropped back Verstappen muscled past Gasly on lap 6 and then passed Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou on the following lap to take second place, 9.5s behind Pérez.
The shower was weakening, however, and with the track drying quickly Verstappen was soon back in the pits taking on Soft tyres. Pérez made the same switch a lap later but the undercut worked for Verstappen and the Dutchman as his team-mate made his way to the pit exit, Verstappen swept past to retake the lead, with Alonso in third ahead of Gasly and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
The chaos of the opening phase then briefly gave way to more settled running, but on lap 16 the shape of the race changed again when Williams’ Logan Sargeant crashed at Turn 8. The Safety Car was released and the field bunched up behind the Bulls until lap 21 when the caution ended.
Verstappen held the lead well at the restart, with Pérez hanging on to his team-mate’s RB19 to keep Alonso at bay. Behind the front three, Gasly held fourth place despite heavy pressure from Sainz.
After the resumption it was Albon making the most headway, with the Williams driver swiftly passing Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Zhou to take sixth place. Further back, however, Charles Leclerc was struggling on lap 27 he dropped two places as he was passed by both Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. The Ferrari driver, who had suffered floor damage in a tangle with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri at the start, would later retire from the race.
At the front, Verstappen was steadily building a gap to his team-mate and by lap 44 he was 11 seconds ahead. Pérez then made his second stop, for more softs, and he dropped to fourth place behind Gasly.
The Frenchman made his pit stop on lap 47, during which he served a five-second penalty for an earlier speeding offence in the pit lane and Peerez moved back to third place, which became second when Alonso pitted at the end of lap 48. The Spaniard’s stop was slow due to the problem with his front left tyre and he lost third place to Sainz.
Verstappen made his third pit stop at the end of the following tour and after taking on another set of Soft tyres the Dutchman resumed in the lead, six seconds clear of his team-mate and Alonso and Sainz.
Behind them Gasly was driving well in fifth place and beginning to put pressure on Sainz, while at the start of lap 57 Albon moved back to sixth place, using DRS to pass Russell who had risen up the order after his stop for hard tyres early in the race.
Gasly then made his way past Sainz at the start of lap 60 but within a lap the rain that had been moving towards Zandvoort for some time began to fall. Pérez was again the first to react and he pitted for Inters. The Mexican was followed by a stream of cars and then on the following lap, Verstappen made his stop and resumed in the lead.
Pérez then went off at Turn 1 and clipped the barriers. He was able to continue but lost P2 to Alonso. The rain was now intensifying and when Zhou lost control and went into the barriers at Turn 1, the VSC was deployed. With a sizeable gap in hand, Verstappen headed into the pit lane for full wet tyres and with torrential rain falling, Pérez followed.
However, during the Mexican’s stop the race was red flagged and he was forced to stop at the end of the pit lane as the rest of the field tip-toed through the treacherous conditions to join him. The stoppage was also a chance for the team to assess the damage caused to the Mexican’s car in his Turn 1 spin and contact with the barrier and when he clipped the wall at the pit entry on the way into the pit lane, a moment that would later compromise his race.
After almost 45 minutes Race Control indicated that the race would get underway again, with a rolling start and with intermediate tyres specified and with Max at the front of the pack ahead of Alonso and Pérez.
And when the Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 66, Verstappen controlled the restart well to keep a hard-charging Alonso at bay. Pérez, however, was handed a five-second penalty for his tyre switch in the heavy rain, during which he exceeded the pit lane speed limit.
Further back, Russell put a good move on Norris to take P7, but the McLaren driver fought back and in Turn 11 there was contact. Russell sustained a puncture and was forced back to the pit lane.
Verstappen, though, was pulling away at the front and after 72 incident-packed laps the Dutchman crossed the line to take his ninth win of 2023.
Despite pressure from behind, Alonso took P2 with Gasly rising to third as Pérez’s penalty was applied. The Mexican was left with fourth ahead of Sainz, Hamilton and Norris. Albon finished eighth ahead of Piastri and the final point went to Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 72 2:24'04.411
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 72 2:24'08.155 3.744
3 Pierre Gasly Alpine 72 2:24'11.469 7.058
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 72 2:24'14.479 10.068
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 72 2:24'16.952 12.541
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 72 2:24'17.620 13.209
7 Lando Norris McLaren 72 2:24'17.643 13.232
8 Alexander Albon Williams 72 2:24'19.566 15.155
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren 72 2:24'20.991 16.580
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine 72 2:24'22.757 18.346
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 72 2:24'24.498 20.087
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 72 2:24'25.251 20.840
13 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri 72 2:24'30.558 26.147
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 72 2:24'30.821 26.410
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 72 2:24'31.799 27.388
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 72 2:24'34.304 29.893
17 George Russell Mercedes 72 2:25'00.165 55.754
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 62 1:27'01.340 Accident
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 41 59'41.345 Retirement
Logan Sargeant Williams 14 21'42.428 Accident
Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri RBPT 0 - Withdrawn